There are successes that are shaped by collective work, others by individual talent. That of Bàsquet Girona, who certified a historic promotion to the ACB this Sunday, will be remembered because Marc Gasol, founder and president of the club and hero of his fans; One day he decided to take to the field to turn a losing team into an elite team. Against Estudiantes, in the final of the qualifying rounds for promotion to the top basketball category (66-60), the center played limping in the semifinals due to his injured knee, but he helped keep a team’s spirit alive and the game begins and ends in him. His contribution after the break was crucial.
Girona sensed relegation in November. He added just two wins in the opening nine days and Marc Gasol changed the trainers lead suit. A federation record was awarded and the team soared: 23 wins in the following 29 games. The most important, the final, was also won in a choral rather than individual encounter. The next challenge is to convince Gasol, who has not yet decided on his future, to stay in the elite for another year, this time to compete in the ACB, the competition that made him a star before he was in the NBA exploded.
Marc Gasol’s relationship with Girona goes back a long way. The Catalan was a young talent with no minutes at Barcelona who left for Akasvayu Girona in 2006 to progress. His adaptation to the city has been as rapid as his growth as a player. He was voted ACB League MVP in 2008, and throughout his tenure in the NBA (2008-2021) he repeatedly hinted that he wanted to end his career in the city. In 2014 he founded the club Bàsquet Girona (which has nothing to do with Akasvayu, who disappeared in 2012) with training goals, in 2017 he founded the senior national team. After completing his trip in North America, he increased his involvement with his club until putting on his shoes in November.
Playing with Gasol is not the same as playing without him. The final started when the semi-final was over, notably in the Catalan club’s medical services. The mission was clear: to spoil the star’s knee so that after the lame game against Lleida, he can get as close to heads or tails as possible against Estudiantes. His presence was both a sporting and a moral issue. “Without Marc, we have no options,” admitted the Girona fans. Marc was on the track and Girona breathed a sigh of relief.
The center started, but initially didn’t feel comfortable with defensive movements and the fight for the rebound. And sometimes it happens that the absence of the biggest is filled with the smallest contributions: Girona clenched their fists in defense, help multiplied and the wingers fine-tuned their periscope from the three-point line. Fjellerup (seven points in the first five minutes; 17 overall) and Vecvagars (nine at half-time) took over the Catalan attack.
It wasn’t enough to initially submit to a tough student who also found other places. Larssen and Durisic grew even bigger in the penalty area and Beiran joined in on the dirty work (five rebounds at halftime). The schoolboys clearly dominated offensive rebounds (seven at the break, one from Girona) and took second chances in each played. It seemed that life went to them. The promotion came.
Girona lived threefold. A run of two near-back-to-back goals from Vecvagars gave Girona their first big lead four minutes before the break (20-30), but Estudiantes responded with a 10-4 run after a Dee basket on the buzzer (30-34 at the break ).
The break mostly settled for Girona and its star. Gasoline came out and came to a boil. He ignited the defensive spark (he added four steals and four rebounds, for an overall PIR of 18) and ignited Fontajau, who has been involved in what has been a historic weekend for the city from the start (the football team is targeting promotion tonight in the first league). Three consecutive three-point games saw Girona in a brilliant third quarter (24-17 in their favour) and went into the crucial quarter with an 11-point lead (58-47) after winning 14. Beirán pulled the car with a final arreón, turning the final quarter into an endless ditch; but Gasol returned to the field for the story to talk about Marc in his club’s first promotion to the ACB.
The cross was taken over by Estudiantes, who will experience another year of mourning in the LEB league after being relegated from the ACB for the first time last year. The students, given their history, budget, and staff, had promotion as their primary goal, but the gasol factor was insurmountable.
The irregularity has dogged the collegiate team all season. He lost the opportunity for direct promotion after finishing second behind Granada, the champion. after falling in five of the six games against the top four (Granada, Girona and Palencia). The club had doubts at the end of April because the figures did not come out. He fired José Ramón Cuspinera when he was a win away from the leader and hired Diego Epifanio, who had two promotions to the top category in San Pablo Burgos (2017) and Río Breogán (2020), to reverse the situation . He almost made it, but Gasol prevented it.