Sporting Clube de Portugal basketball team was crowned, this Wednesday, National Champion of the sport for the ninth time in its history. 39 years after the last national title (1981/1982), and less than two years since the team returned to active duty, the Lions rose again to the highest place in Portuguese basketball by beating FC Porto by 86-85 (22- 20, 29-27, 17-16 and 18-22) in the fifth and final game of the competition final.
It was, therefore, the icing on the cake of a memorable 2020/2021 for green and white basketball, which joined Liga Placard to the two Cups of Portugal won this season (one of them referring to 2019/2020).
The anxiety and nervousness ended around 19:00, when the game started at the João Rocha Pavilion. With 2-2 in the tie and with two great teams on the Leonina arena court, the whole League was reduced to the duel that was about to start. And that started at full speed, with great intensity and many points marked in the initial moments.
Shakir Smith opened the count for Sporting CP, FC Porto tied and a sinking by John Fields restored the advantage. Micah Downs hit a triple to 7-4, and shortly thereafter, an 8-0 run put the Dragons 11-14 ahead.
Sporting CP went forward again when Travante Williams scored from the three-point line, changing the result to 18-17, and a slump by João Fernandes on top of the horn closed the first quarter at 22-20.
It was understood, after ten minutes, that it was going to be a balanced duel, with advantages and superiorities from both sides. The game was going well – it was the best in the final and one of the best of the season – and Travante’s treble in the first half of the second quarter made it 25-22 for the Lions. But FC Porto reacted again, this time with 11 consecutive points (25-33).
FC Porto was very well on the three-point line, but then it was Sporting CP’s turn to do the same. Only in the second quarter, Travante Williams, Micah Downs (twice), Diogo Ventura (twice) and Pedro Catarino hit triple shots and Sporting CP went ahead in 43-41. The lead increased slightly at half-time, with the result settling at 51-47. With 14 points so far, Travante Williams was the mainstay of the match.
The game returned from the locker rooms with the usual balance, but fewer hits successfully converted. John Fields started the second-half score and, for the 59-53, João Fernandes staged a showy sinking, but FC Porto responded in strength once again, moving forward in the 59-60.
Sporting CP, however, did not let the visitors get away from the marker. The triples of Travante Williams and Micah Downs turned the score around again and the first of the two Americans even finished the fourth in 68-63.
The five-point advantage was, of course, pleasant going into the last quarter, but nothing was resolved, as proved by the successful triple by Garrett Nevels, from FC Porto, for 68-66.
The blues and whites appeared with everything and managed to tie the game at 75 points and move forward in 77-78. Life became more complicated for Sporting CP, especially when the disadvantage became six points (78-84).
The Lions, of course, did not give up and went after the victory in the last moments. James Ellisor, Travante Williams and Micah Downs all scored and 42 seconds from the end the score was 83-84, with everything open. Jalen Riley hit a free throw that made the 83-85 for FC Porto and Sporting CP had 18 seconds to try to score.
And got it. With six seconds to go, Shakir Smith penetrated the white and blue defense and got two more points for the 85-85. There remained an attack from FC Porto, but Sporting CP recovered the ball and Micah Downs was fouled. Free throws for the jersey 33 with less than a second to play and the Lion hit one of them. Enough to epic win the game 86-85 and give the national title to Alvalade’s emblem.
The party, of course, exploded at the João Rocha Pavilion. 39 years later, Sporting CP is National Basketball Champion.
Sporting CP: Travante Williams (21), Francisco Amiel, John Fields (9), Jorge Embaló, Shakir Smith (6), Diogo Ventura (12), João Fernandes (8), Cláudio Fonseca, Diogo Araújo, Pedro Catarino (3) , Micah Downs (16) and James Ellisor C.