Success comes along
“We’ll be in the promotion play-offs, because this group of humans guarantees this ambition. We’ll have a spectacle and results with a squad that has absolute faith in its possibilities and with an ambitious budget, in accordance with the club’s objectives, and thanks to the support from the institutions. Our other goal is to reach and aspire the thousand members and the two thousand spectators on average in La Casilla so that Bilbao and Biscay can have an elite team again”. With these words from the President, Jon Arrinda, the 2001-02 campaign got underway. A speech, which resulted prophetic because it was a season in which the LEB-2 Championship title was achieved and the subsequent promotion, besides the Cup, which had its venue just here in Bilbao and in fact meant, the first great success in club history.
There was an almost total renewal of the team, whose first signing on would end up being decisive in the history of the club, seeing that the Board of directors were able to make Txus Vidorreta return from La Palma Island to occupy the Bilbaon bench. That year, saw the arrival of players who will always be remembered by the fans, such as Lucho Fernández, Javi Salgado or Mark Poag, whereas others like Patrick Sáenz de Ugarte or Xabi Madina stayed on in the project. Definitely, the make up of the team had been achieved, the team would proclaim themselves the regular league champions with 23 matches won and only seven lost. But these numbers were useless if the prolongation of the team’s grand sporting trajectory was not spot-on in the play-offs, and making the most out of the home court advantage that had been won. To start with, in the quarter-finals the Reds were co-leaders with Rayet Guadalajara, the eliminatory was settled in a best of three:
28-04-2002: Basket Bilbao Berri-Rayet Guadalajara: 91-78
30-04-2002: Basket Bilbao Berri-Rayet Guadalajara: 93-83
06-05-2002: Rayet Guadalajara-Basket Bilbao Berri: 64-88
The Red squad, in its second year of existence was going to play to be promoted to the Silver division, against La Palma, Txus Vidorreta’s former team. The Canarians, fourth in the regular league, saw themselves obliged to dispute the fifth game of their quarter-final eliminatory against Aguas de Calpe and Bilbao went all out:
15-05-2002: Basket Bilbao Berri-La Palma: 87-85
17-05-2002: Basket Bilbao Berri-La Palma: 95-81
20-05-2002: La Palma-Basket Bilbao Berri: 111-103
-22-05-2002: La Palma-Basket Bilbao Berri: 72-79
Bilbao Basket didn’t need the fifth and definitive match in La Casilla, because the elimination round had already been resolved in the Miraflores Pavilion in La Palma. A victory which meant the promotion to the Leb League, President Jon Arrinda’s first wish expressed on presentation day. Once the first objective had been met, the team, far from being satisfied, wanted to win the Leb-2 title, along with Tarragona, the other prominent team of the regular competition.
League Final against Tarragona
The promotion was achieved after having beaten Redcom Porriño by 3-0 and Gandía by 3-2, intight semi-final matches. 1st and 2nd leg matches were to be played in the final, and Vidorreta’s team proved to be better, counting on a bit more of ambition. With the home court advantage in favour, the first match was held in the El Serallo Municipal Pavilion, in Tarragona (25-05-2002), and there the outcome was favourable for the Reds, with a 87-92 score for Bilbao and a brilliant performance by Poag (25 points, 7/9 triples). The 2nd leg match, now in La Casilla (31-05-2002), was a celebration which grew with victory by Txus Vidorreta’s pupils in sight and a tight score of 94-91. Bilbao Basket had become the League Champion, the second title in its list of achievements.
AND Madina raised the Cup
The first had come three months earlier and against the same rival. Bilbao played host to the second edition of the Leb 2 Cup, which ended up being a success in terms of attendance and organization, with a city completely behind the event. More than three thousand people went to La Casilla to witness the matches, entranced by the hardened game of the players from Bilbao. With this panorama, Bilbao Basket did not disappoint, and after overcoming Calpe 80-66 inthe semi-final, they had to measure up again against the team from Tarragona, who had reached the grand final after having defeated Rayet Guadalajara 73-68. Tarragona got to Bilbao with the title of being the 2001 Cup Champions and made things difficult for Txus Vidorreta’s men. The Catalans dominated in the first three quarters, but spurred on by the Bilbaon fans that were thrilled once more with basketball, the Reds ended up winning by 84-74 and team captain, Xabi Madina, could raise the Championship Cup.
There were a total of fifteen players who donned the red outfit: Pedro Rodríguez, Rubén Quintana, Alex Iturbe, Iñigo Varona, Xabier Madina, Mark Poag, Tiago Splitter, Joseba Iglesias, Patrick Sánez de Ugarte, Javi Salgado, Lucho Fernández, Francisco Perujo, Jon Gascón, Isma Torres and José Luis Ortún. Between all of them, they had a successful season winning the League Championship, achieving the promotion and the Cup with a winning average of 80%. Bilbao Basket had earned the public’s respect and acknowledgement. These achievements did not go unnoticed by Biscay’s Provincial Government or Bilbao Town Hall, who opened the institution’s doors to receive enthusiastically those who had obtained these mentioned feats.