Academik wins Bulgarian NBL

Lukoil Academik clinched the Bulgarian NBL title for the 11th consecutive time with an 86-81 victory over Levski Sofia to win the finals series 3-2.

Despite being the dominant force in Bulgarian Basketball, Academik had to fight to claim their 11th straight title as Levski put up a strong challenge over the 5 game series. Indeed, it has been Levski that has been the closest threat to Academik in recent years, losing the finals series the last four seasons.

On this occasion there was a real chance that Academik would miss out on championship glory this season as both teams entered this game with the series tied at two each. With the two teams so close throughout the first four games, the fifth was destined to be a tight affair, and so it proved. Disastrously for Levski, the whole team will be left thinking what might have been as the players gave away 28 personal fouls throughout the game, an amount that probably proved the difference between the teams.

Getting constant free throw attempts allowed Academik to keep one step ahead of their opponents for much of the game, even if it was a small step. The defending champions took an edgy first quarter by 16 points to Levski’s 10 and may have been forgiven for thinking a comfortable evening was on the cards. It would not prove to be however as Levski snatched the second quarter by 21 points to 19 to put the scoreboard at 35-31 in Academik’s favour at the end of the first half.

The game continued in the same way throughout the second half, with both teams trading blows. The toing and froing was enough to allow Academik to stay in the lead for much of the matchup, although the margin of that lead never made things comfortable. By the buzzer both teams had four players each who had scored in double figures.

American guard Brandon Heath was instrumental in the Academik victory, posting 18 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists throughout the game. His compatriot Darryl Watkins also chipped in with his own weighty contribution; the center secured 17 points for his team. For Levski Sofia, Serbian point guard Marko Marinovic kept his team within touch with 15 points and 6 rebounds, while Mladen Pantic also played well with 15 points and 9 rebounds.

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