Anton Ponkrashov:
We Played Our Best Basketball At The Most Important Moment

UNICS advanced to the league finals thanks to a Game 5 win vs. Zenit and now takes on reigning champions CSKA.

UNICS captain Anton Ponkrashov spoke with VTB-League.com about the nerve-wracking series against Zenit and shared the team's secret to success. He also recalled his last appearance in the finals and previewed the upcoming showdown with the Army Men.

- After two losses in St. Petersburg, what was the game plan for Game 5? What did Evgeny Pashutin change?
- First of all, he asked us to forget about the pressure. He asked that we play our brand of basketball. In general, the team has pretty experienced players who don't panic in this type of situation. Everyone understood the importance of the game and didn't need any extra motivation.

- Then what happened to the team in St. Petersburg?
- It's tough to say. Zenit played really good basketball and was aggressive. But we proved that we were stronger in Game 5 and won thanks to our effort on defense. If you take all five games, we played our best basketball at the most important moment!

In my opinion, we gave our opponent too much freedom on the road and that turned into losses for us. And even in Game 5, Zenit hit some very tough shots at the start of the game and got confident. But, thank God, we didn't let them get too comfortable. We played aggressive as a whole team.

- How did you stop Zenit's biggest weapon--their snipers?
- Only by our work on defense. Did you see how Vadim Panin pestered everyone and made life miserable for them? Everyone played physical, gritty basketball. That's the only way to go in the playoffs.

- Did UNICS president Evgeny Bogachev enter the locker room after the game?
- Of course, he was very happy, like us all. We congratulated each other. It was a great atmosphere in the locker room!

- Do you remember the last time you played in the finals?
- I remember pretty well. I also reached the Russian league finals with Khimki.

It's a little different this time and I'm at a different stage in my career. We deserve to be in the finals. Everyone is battling and striving for our goal. Just one more step to the championship!

- In order to take that step you need to overcome CSKA...
- They were the best team in the Euroleague this season. We need to put everything on the line. The basketball gods can decide from there. Objectively, CSKA is a very strong team. It's especially tough to start the series with two games in Moscow. But we'll do whatever depends on us.

- Have you accomplished your goal for the season by reaching the finals and earning a spot in the Euroleague?
- Yes, the goal set by the club has been reached. Now we can really enjoy playing. I think that will work to our advantage.