Best new team in the Silver Division
In their debut season in the silver category, Bilbao Basket became the surprise team who no one had expected to end up so high in the placings, where they had battled it out throughout the entire competition. They got off to a spectacular start, and were unbeaten during the first four encounters and achieving at the end of the first half of the competition a win-loss record of 11-4, identical to that of Tenerife and Coinga Menorca. This allowed Txus Vidorreta’s men to play in the Prince Cup, which in 2003 had been staged in Inca.
In the semi-finals, Bilbao Basket had to measure up to the host team, DRAC Inca, where Paris Bryant was dazzling. It was a hard-fought and stressful affair that the Reds were able to win by 66-71 ina good match with players such as Txemi Urtasun, Poag or the very same Javi Salgado. It was the Bilbaon club’s first ever match in the Prince Cup and they were already able to gain a place in the competition final, in which they were to face Tenerife, the real dominator in the category throughout the whole season and who had defeated Menorca in the semi-finals by a resounding 57-84. Inthat final, played on the second of February, the Reds refused to step onto court as victims and, in the first two plays, a triple by Poag and a block by Splitter to Hamilton, gave a warning that their loss would come at great cost. Nevertheless, the team coached by Paco García imposed their enormous skill and, even though Vidorreta’s men were able to shorten distances on the scoreboard in the third quarter with Quintana’s magnificent moves, the rivals took home the tournament with a final outcome of 70-55.
That final was another chapter of an exciting campaign because of the unexpectedness of the situation, given that nobody had expected that, without any experience in the LEB, Bilbao Basket would end the campaign fighting it out for the promotion to the ACB. The team had qualified for the play-offs and were in second place in the standings until the last match day round but, in the end; the team ended up in a deserving fourth place on finalization of the regular league with a win-loss record of 19-11. León were fifth, that’s why the pairings for the quarter-final was already served having the home court advantage in its favour:
23-04-2003. Bilbao Basket-León Caja España: 78-76
25-04-2003. Bilbao Basket-León Caja España: 96-72
30-04-2003. León Caja España-Bilbao Basket: 85-71
02-05-2003. León Caja España-Bilbao Basket: 87-77
07-05-2003. Bilbao Basket-León Caja España: 74-80
The eliminatory was lost, but for our novice team it meant quite a lot having participated in the promotion play-offs. Vidorreta’s men were able to win the first two games played at home; the team from León forced the fifth encounter where they proved to be better. Despite it all, this match left a great impression for all to see, for the first time in many years, La Casilla was packed to the brim, with fans completely behind the team. This was just the beginning of what was to come in the following months and whose stars a total of fifteen players were:
Pedro Rodríguez, Rubén Quintana, Mario Santana, Juan José Jiménez, Txemi Urtasun, Mark Poag, Borja Vidal, Tiago Splitter, Patric Sáenz de Ugarte, Lucho Fernández, Javi Salgado, Isma Torres, Juan Pedro Cazorla, Michael Higgins and Fran Vázquez.