Beşiktaş Milangaz make history with debut Euro win
Beşiktaş Milangaz players and staff celebrate claiming the Eurochallenge trophy after a win over Elan Chalon in Debrecen.Beşiktaş Milangaz clinched its first-ever European trophy, and only the second for Turkey, as the Istanbul team defeated Elan Chalon 91-86 in the Eurochallenge final in Debrecen, Hungary on April 29.
British power forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu scored 26 points and 20 rebounds and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, but it was a collective effort with Zoran Erceg also contributing with 25 points and 15 rebounds.
French international Steed Tchicamboud hit a team-high 19 points, but it was still not enough for Elan Chalon. Beşiktaş’s win in Europe’s third-tier club competition is the second men’s basketball victory for Turkey, 16 years after Anadolu Efes, formerly Efes Pilsen, won the now-defunct Korac Cup.
It is also the second trophy for Beşiktaş this year, after their Turkish Cup win.
“To win the first European Cup and the first Turkish Cup for Beşiktaş, it’s huge,” Mensah-Bonsu said to reporters after the game. “I’m kind of lost for words right now but we worked hard for this ... We came here and we knew it would be tough. Chalon was a tough team but we knew if we played our game, we had a good chance of winning it and we were able to do it.”
The British forward was a commanding presence throughout the year. He scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in his first game for Beşiktaş, and went on to register eight doubles-doubles in points and rebounds in the next ten, including Sunday’s final.
“I just tried to control the board, be a presence inside and dominate and by the grace of God, I was able to do so,” Mensah-Bonsu said, adding that he was grateful for the victory, which came after tough years of injury.
“I’ve had a couple of tough years, but God has been gracious to me. I am happy to be here,” he said.
Beşiktaş was the favorite to win the Eurochallenge, especially after being relegated from the second-tier Eurocup earlier this season. The team then had the luxury to play with one of the best point guards in the world in Deron Williams, who chose to spend his time in Turkey during the NBA lockout.
Williams averaged more than 30 points in the Eurochallenge during his time at Beşiktaş and even scored 50 points during the team’s 105-94 win over BC Göttingen of Germany on Nov. 22, 2011.
However, Beşiktaş recovered after losing Williams, who returned to the New Jersey Nets after the NBA lockout ended, by purchasing Carlos Arroyo.
The Puerto Rican guard made his impact on Sunday’s final with two long-range shots within 90 seconds, and his team started breathing easier when they pulled 82-70 clear with 2:03 left.