The miracle of Casademont Zaragoza in the Euroleague | Basketball | Sports

The scene, by force of the moment, has become iconic. Vega Gimeno, the captain of Casademont Zaragoza, grabbed a microphone, went to the center of the field at the Príncipe Felipe pavilion, and shouted: “We are going to the third game! Thank you, thank you, thank you and 800,000 times thank you. “We are all going to Turkey next week to win this tie.” The audience, more than 5,600 spectators that Wednesday, exploded with pure happiness. His team had just defeated the almighty Turkish Cukurova (57-56), the runner-up of the Euroleague, in the second game of the qualifying round to enter the Final Four. And yes, they were going to the third game, the tiebreaker that will be played this Wednesday (5:30 p.m.) at the Servet Tazegül Arenac, a pavilion named after a Turkish legend, an Olympic and world taekwondo champion, and that will bring together no less than 7,850 people, those who attended the first game (79-62).

Everyone in Zaragoza knows that it is a utopia to surprise Cukurova again. But there Vega Gimeno re-emerges with a phrase full of meaning: “We have not traveled this far to lose.” You are right. Casademont Zaragoza is one of the most powerful clubs in Spain, but it is nothing more than modest in Europe. The squad and the technical team of Carlos Cantero, their coach, have not traveled to Mersin, almost a thousand kilometers south of Istanbul, on a comfortable charter flight. His journey on Monday lasted 15 hours. At seven thirty in the morning they took a bus from Zaragoza to Barcelona, ​​from there they flew to Istanbul, where they got on another plane to the Mersin region, and from there, another bus to the city where one of the most important games in its short history. The players, who almost lost their suitcases during the transfer, did not arrive at the hotel until half past ten at night.

The Casademont Zaragoza is a invention recent. Women’s basketball had taken root in the Aragonese capital at the beginning of the century with the Mann Filter. A team that had its home in the Siglo XXI pavilion and that grew alongside figures such as Elena Tornikidou, Marina Ferragut or Lucila Pascua. This club, which became third in the League (2002-2003 season) and runner-up in the Queen’s Cup (2004-2005), struggled between 2000 and 2013, when, strangled by debt, it disappeared. His last years, with references such as Cristina Ouviña, Lucila Pascua or María Pina.

The club, which already had a men’s team in the ACB, decided to create the women’s section four years ago. It didn’t seem like they would be able to take the titles from Perfumerías Avenida, Spar Girona or Valencia Basket, but last year they hosted the Queen’s Cup and their history took a radical turn. Casademont Zaragoza, after beating Valencia in the semifinals and Avenida in the final, was proclaimed champion in a Príncipe Felipe packed with 10,800 spectators. It was the presentation of the Red Tide. From then on there was no important Zaragoza match that did not bring together 6,000 fans. Sports fans in the city, with the soccer team in the Second Division, rallied, as Vega recalls from Turkey. “It has gone little by little. I have been at the club for three years and each season it has grown. At first, no more than 300 or 400 people came to see us, but now the average is almost 6,000. It has been done with great care and we, after each game, spend 30 or 40 minutes taking photos and signing autographs. They have instilled in us that philosophy: to return the support they give us. You also notice that affection on the street, and that has given us a great sense of responsibility.”

The captain knows that without victories for Cantero’s team, renewed until 2026, the Red Tide would not exist, but she thinks there is something more. “We have a very dynamic and fun way of playing. In recent years they have signed players with a lot of character, who celebrate baskets, turn towards the public and connect with the stands. “After so much time in basketball, I had never experienced something like this,” explains this 33-year-old woman, daughter of a handball player and sister of a professional futsal goalkeeper, who left her native Valencia at the age of 14 to enter the Blume residence.

In one of his teams, Rivas Ecópolis, he played in the Euroleague final in 2012, from which the last Spanish European champion, Ros Casares Valencia, emerged. A year before, Halcón Avenida Salamanca won, and in 1992 and 1993, Dorna Godella added two titles in a row. There has not been another. Casademont Zaragoza, led by its captain, Mariona Ortiz and Leo Fiebich (MVP of the Women’s League) still has options, although that means defeating a rival with players as powerful as Marina Mabrey, Kahleah Cooper, Stephanie Mavunga or the Spanish María Araujo . “A player on her team earns the same as almost our entire team, or almost. Ours has a lot of merit,” Vega concludes.

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