Since Croatian independence, Zagreb teams Cedevita and Cibona have mostly dominated the Basketball Championships (25 of 28 seasons). Split was able to pull off one title in 2003, while Zadar was able to win two in 2005 and 2008.
Tonight, the two Dalmatian teams had to battle to find out who would be forever remembered as the 2021 champions. Recall, Zadar won its two home games to take the lead and seemed like the sure champions before Split somehow managed to come back to win game 3 in overtime and continue with a clear victory in game 4 to tie the series 2:2.
Before yesterday’s game, there was a lot of discussion between Zadar, the Croatian league, and the epidemiologists regarding how many spectators would be allowed into the gym. After the two losses in Split, the hosts hoped for some support after seeing how much noise 100 spectators could make in Split and how many 100 spectators could actually be. During the first two games, Zadar had basically played in front of empty seats. But, not very surprisingly, thousands of spectators could not be held back and found their way into the arena to give Zadar a true home atmosphere. So, despite all epidemic concerns, it surely got loud in the arena.
Despite the noise and intimidation, Split had the better start with a 0:5 in the first 3 minutes. Zadar was able to counter with a 14:2 run eight minutes into the game. Zadar was able to control the boards once again and outrebounded the Yellows 26:15 in the first half.
The second quarter opened with a three-pointer by Jordano (20:9), followed by two more Jordano three-pointers for a 15-point Zadar advantage in the 16th minute (33:18). Mesiček responded with a three-pointer, but in the next minute and a half, the 8:0 Zadar series on the wings of Mavra and Onuaku followed, and in the 18th minute, Zadar was up by 20 (41:21). The second quarter ended with a three-pointer by Ukić and Onuaku dunk (49:29).
Zadar’s Jordano was on fire tonight and scored his sixth three-pointer of the final for 55:31 in the third quarter. Thanks to Vuković and Junaković, Zadar was up by 30 (68:38) in the last minute of the third quarter. Vukovic scored for 71:40, and Ukić ended the quarter with a three-pointer for 71:43.
Zadar calmly brought the game to an end. In the last quarter, more attention was paid to the stands than to the floor. Zadar fans lit torches and celebrated their new title.