An eventful season has seen Kirolbet Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz qualify for the team’s third straight playoff appearance. The summer was marked by fan-favorite Pablo Prigioni coming aboard to debut as a head coach and with him came a few signings who combined youth and experience, while the team lost a big asset in 2017 Best Defender trophy winner Adam Hanga.
Things didn’t start well with defeats in the first four games, including road losses at Olympiacos Piraeus, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and Brose Bamberg plus an injury to one of the biggest summer signings, Jordan McRae. Veteran Matt Janning came in as a temporary replacement and he soon gelled with his new teammates.
Perhaps the most significant transaction of the season came when Coach Prigioni resigned and was replaced by a familiar face in Pedro Martinez. The team was transformed in a fortnight, and from then it managed to win six of its next eight games, including key victories against Real Madrid at home and on tough road trips to Zalgiris Kaunas and Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade.
Led by new additions Jayson Granger and Janis Timma, but most of all big man Toko Shengelia and scorer Rodrigue Beaubois, the Basque team strumbled with four losses in five games, including falling against CSKA Moscow and defending champ Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul. In that stint, however, a prestige 86-54 win over Olympiacos was one of the highlights for Baskonia.
In Round 23 nothing was lost for Baskonia, but with a 10-13 record and in ninth place, the team had to change its dynamics if it wanted to stay strong in the race for the top eight spots. And the change was as drastic as they come. An 87-77 home win over Khimki started a six-game winning streak that included tough visits to fellow Spanish League sides Valencia Basket and FC Barcelona Lassa.
As the standings would have it, however, the key game would be the penultimate of the regular season, at home against Maccabi, as both teams were direct rivals for the last playoff spot. Johannes Voigtmann led the Baskonia effort for an 83-72 triumph that secured another playoff appearance for the Vitoria team and an MVP of the Month award for Shengelia in March.
After dropping the last game of the regular season to last-place Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Baskonia stood with a 16-14 record and seventh place in the league. Coach Martinez and co. will now face Fenerbahce in a best-of-five series between the defending champ and one of the hottest teams over the final stretch of the regular season.