CSKA – VTB United League champions!

CSKA Moscow defeated Lokomotiv-Kuban Krasnodar on the road, 59-54, in Game 4 of the VTB United League Finals to win its fourth title in five years. The first half belonged to the home team, but Alexey Savrasenko and Dmitriy Sokolov’s skirmish under the basket completely shifted the momentum in the game. Kuban lost its rhythm and the lead, allowing CSKA to pull ahead for a Game 4 and series win.

CSKA played without its leader Victor Khryapa, who injured his ankle in Game 3. Early on, Moscow didn’t appear fazed. Sonny Weems connected twice from the field, while Krasnodar missed four attempts at the free-throw line. But CSKA didn’t take full advantage and the Railwaymen raced into the lead, pushed on by another big Basket Hall crowd. The Red and Green were led by Derrick Brown, who told the press on Thursday that he was ready to play all 40 minutes in the game, if necessary. He shook his defenders loose over and over again on the way to 10 quick points and a six-point Lokomotiv lead at the end of the quarter, 18-12.

The second quarter was all defense. Almost half of the points came at the free-throw line, though the teams combined to go just 14-24 on freebies in the period. Brown helped Lokomotiv to a 10-point lead, 33-23, near the end of the half, but Aleksei Zozulin and Aaron Jackson struck back with two quick scores to make it a six-point game at the break.

Following halftime, both teams began to play with more aggression on offense, apparently refreshed by the 15-minute breather. Alexey Savrasenko and Dmitriy Sokolov took that aggression one step too far, however, after a fierce rebounding battle under the basket. The two players had to be separated on the baseline and were subsequently ejected from the game. The incident clearly gave CSKA the spark it needed. They began to play with more confidence, despite the increasingly hostile Krasnodar crowd, while Savrasenko’s departure (he was playing the last game of his career) had a negative impact on Lokomotiv’s ability to score the ball. Jackson and Andrey Vorontsevich’s 3-pointers gave CSKA a three-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

Turning Point
The Red and Green couldn’t find an answer to CSKA’s defense down the stretch. They scored just two points in the first six and a half minutes of the final period, struggling to even get a shot off on many possessions. CSKA, however, while ahead by 3-5 points, couldn’t pull away from its opponent. Mantas Kalnietis’s 3-pointer with two minutes to play made it a three-point game, 56-53. He cut the gap to two points at the free-throw line, 56-54, a few seconds later, but Lokomotiv could get no closer, missing opportunities on the offensive end. Aaron Jackson converted two free throws with 21 seconds to play and CSKA closed out the win, 59-54.

Star of the Game
Sonny Weems. He was brilliant to start the game and scored nine points early in the third quarter to help CSKA get in position for the close-out win on the road. The only player on his team to score in double digits, Weems put up a game-high 24 points.

Stat of the Game
14. Number of missed free-throw attempts by Lokomotiv. That’s inexcusable in a game that was decided by five points.

Top Performers
Lokomotiv-Kuban: Derrick Brown – 16 points, five rebounds; Nick Calathes – 11 points, six rebounds, seven assists.

CSKA: Sonny Weems – 24 points; Andrey Vorontsevich – nine points, nine rebounds; Aaron Jackson – nine points; Vladimir Micov – six points, six rebounds, six assists.

Awards Ceremony
A beautiful awards ceremony capped CSKA’s championship night as confetti and champagne spray covered the court in their honor. But no one forgot about Lokomotiv-Kuban, either, which earned its first-ever silver medals in the VTB United League. Victor Khryapa also picked up the Playoffs MVP award, despite not being able to play in Game 4. He led his team in the first three games of the series and throughout the postseason and the team repaid him with an impressive win tonight in his absence. Champions once again!

CSKA head coach Ettore Messina:
- First of all, I’d like to congratulate Lokomotiv-Kuban on an excellent season. They achieved everything they wanted to. The VTB United League is one of the most difficult leagues I’ve experienced in my career. As for the Finals, we played without our leading players – Teodosic, Kaun and, today, Khryapa. Plus, we had to start the playoffs immediately following the Euroleague Final Four. On the way to the title we defeated the EuroChallenge champions Krasnye Krylia, Euroleague Top 16 participant, Khimki Moscow Region, and Eurocup holders Lokomotiv-Kuban. This was one of the most difficult paths to a championship. This title is very important to me, our team and all of our fans.

Lokomotiv-Kuban head coach Evgeny Pashutin:
- I’d like congratulate everyone with the end of the season and thank my guys for battling and playing with character. The team showed that it can defeat even the strongest opponents. I hope we managed to please the fans with our play. Lokomotiv made a step forward this season and I hope that it won’t be the last one. Yes, we struggled with our emotions today, but is it really possible to play without them at all?! I also want to thank our fans who gave us amazing support and cheered us on not just today, but at every game.

Photo of the Game