Saturday 7th March
OLAIZOLA II – MENDIZABAL II beat BERASALUZE VIII – BEGINO 22-20
Two Asegarce pairs entered the fray at Labrit on Saturday knowing that a loss would mean elimination. Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino had already suffered heavy defeat in the semi final stage at the hands of Begoetxea VI and Beloki whereas the defending champions, Aimar Olaizola and Oier Mendizabal had lost slightly more narrowly to Irujo and Goni III. Such crucial encounters are rarely matches to write home about in terms of pure quality and so it proved in Pamplona, but it was Aimar and Oier, true big match performers, who survived this war of attrition and retained the golden chance of a final berth.
Many of the almost 1000 spectators in the Navarrese capital must have trained their eyes on Begino, whose Herculean strength had catapulted his pair into the semi finals two weeks ago. There are few pelotaris physically stronger from the back of the fronton and with direction added to brute force Begino had the potential to dominate here. However, that was to reckon without the guile of Oier Mendizabal who refused to be bowed. The young Gipuzkoan hit with strength and assurance everything that Berasaluze sent his way from the front and his relentless pressure began to tell on Begino, who kept pace initially but increasingly lost his way. Mendizabal committed only two errors in the 34.51 minutes of playing time; Begino hit eleven and by the closing stages looked shattered both mentally and physically.
Olaizola was not in vintage form. The Goizeutan’s normally lethal hook shot simply did not fire, for reasons best known to himself, but he was able to bring other strengths to bear. It is Aimar’s special gift to see the game from afar even when he is in the midst of it; he is unsurpassed as a reader of the game, a cool headed tactician who can judge a situation and act accordingly. Sensing his partner’s excellent form, Olaizola turned defender, both handing the initiative to Mendizabal and pressurising Begino until he cracked. It was a tactical master stroke on the part of the defending champions who did just enough to keep their hopes of overall glory alive.
The biggest loser in all of this was undoubtedly Pablo Berasaluze, who played like a man possessed. In hitting a succession of winners he demonstrated his full range of attacking skills and hit with impressive precision. Although he lacked a certain amount of presence at the tail end of the game, when it really mattered, his unceasing efforts earnt him the biggest cheers of the night. Ultimately though, defence rather than attack won the day; Aimar’s skills in this department combined with a Mendizabal who was at his very best snuffed the life both from Pablito and from the red pair’s championship dreams.
Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-3, 4-3, 4-4, 7-4, 7-5, 9-5, 9-7, 10-7, 10-10, 12-10, 12-12, 14-12, 14-16, 15-16, 15-19, 18-19, 18-21, 20-21 and 20-22.