On this day 18 years ago, Real Madrid set a shooting record that could stand for a very long time. Real was in a Top 16 group featuring reigning EuroLeague champion Kinder Bologna, Efes Pilsen and Ural Great Perm, in which only the winner would punch its ticket to the Final Four to be played in Bologna. At the halfway mark of the Top 16, Kinder remained undefeated and had thrashed Real 58-86 in the Spanish capital. Real was 1-2 and pretty much needed to win all three games and for Kinder to lose all three to qualify. To make things worse, Real had to fly to its furthest game ever, in Perm, Russia, a seven-hour, 4,560 Km flight. Real only dressed eight players for the game since Zan Tabak, Dragan Tarlac, Eric Struelens and Alberto Herreros were unavailable. And with that as the backdrop, Real played one of its best games that EuroLeague season and set a record that still stands.
Hernandez-Sonseca steps up
With its three main big men involved, Real head coach Sergio Scariolo had no other choice than to play young center Eduardo Hernandez-Sonseca, who was 20 years old at the time. Hernandez-Sonseca had accumulated 25 points in 8 games so far that season, but exploded against Ural, which featured a full set of experienced big men including Valeri Daineko, Sergey Panov, Mikhail Mikhailov and Alexandr Bashminov. Hernandez-Sonseca finished the game with 28 points; it was not just a career-high: he scored more than in his 9 previous appearances combined. He added 6 rebounds, 4 blocks and 6 fouls drawn for a PIR of 36, leading Real to an unexpected 104-113 win and made his contribution to a record: most free throws made by a team without a miss.
A collective record
Among Real's eight available players was Toñin Llorente, who had played 24 seconds in the Top 16 until this point and Maciej Lampe, who just turned 17. Neither of them got to the free-throw line, but everyone else contributed to an outstanding record. Hernandez-Sonseca and Alberto Angulo each made 8 free throws, Sasa Djordjevic and Dusan Vukcevic had 6 apiece, Lucio Angulo nailed his 4 attempts and Stefano Attruia was 2 for 2 from the line. All in all, 34 free throw attempts, 34 made.
No team comes close
Real shattered the previous record at the time, Zalgiris Kaunas making 15 without a miss against Adecco Estudiantes Madrid on October 26, 2000. No team has come close to what Real did. The closest was Fenerbahce, which was perfect in 25 trips to the free-throw line on March 9, 2018, on the road at Zalgiris. In total, there have been 163 occasions this century that a team has made all of its free throws, which includes Stelmet Zielona Gora's 1 for 1 in November 2015. Also, there have been only 43 times this century, just over twice per season on average, that a team has made 34 free throws in a single game. Making that many without a miss is a rarity and one of the records that will be toughest to ever break.
About the game
The two teams combined for 217 points, which ranks fourth in EuroLeague history. The record belongs to Skipper Bologna and Panathinaikos Athens, which combined for 223 points in a double-overtime classic on January 14, 2004. Skipper and Zalgiris combined for 224 points (117-107) 8 days later, on January 22, 2004, and also that year, on December 02, 2004, AEK Athens and Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv combined for 223 points (110-113). Angulo led Madrid with 30 points, Hernandez-Sonseca added 28 and Dusan Vukcevic scored 21 for Real. Panagiotis Liadelis scored 27 for Ural and Ruslan Avleev added 23.
What happened next
Real managed to defeat Kinder in Bologna, 71-82, but the Italian powerhouse qualified to the Final Four with that loss due to tiebreak advantage. Kinder went on to finish first in Group F with a 4-2 record, with Efes and Real right behind at 3-3. Kinder reached the championship game, but lost it against Panathinaikos. Hernandez-Sonseca went on to become the first-ever player to win two EuroCup titles – with Real in 2007 and Joventut Badalona in 2008. Real would have to wait until 2011 to reach the Final Four and until 2015 to lift the EuroLeague trophy. Ural never returned to the EuroLeague. And Real never traveled that far again for a EuroLeague game.