|Lee Cummard fueled Okapi Aalstar with 19 points and 6 rebounds in the big road win|
Okapi Aalstar recovered from a double-digit first-half deficit to edge out Team TEHO Sport Kotka in a 77-74 thriller in Group E of the EuroChallenge.
The hosts were up 41-29 and cruising just before half-time, but Okapi battled back to take a briefly edge in front in the third quarter before taking the lead for good midway through the fourth.
It was never comfortable, and it was still a one possession game in the final seconds but Lee Cummard's late free throws gave Okapi a cushion before Jukka Matinen and Ryan Ayers missed late three-point attempts for the hosts.
Kotka looked like cruising home after Aleksi Akpaso put them up by 12 with 91 seconds left in the first half, but Okapi replied with a 10-2 run which spanned the half-time interval, and ultimately nosed in front when Cummard's lay-up made it 57-56 with 3:06 left in the third quarter.
That proved short-lived as Kotka regained the edge, but the lead Okapi took on Da'Sean Butler's free throws with 4:40 remaining proved more permanent.
Kotka were still threatening with Joonas Lehtoranta's lay-up making it 75-74 with 21 seconds left, but after Cummard coolly sank two from the line with 17 ticks left, the defence stood up to salt away the victory.
Butler led them to victory with 21 points while Cummard added 19.
Ayers led Kotka with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Okapi Aalstar player Ioana Tofi
"We knew what to expect. We played against a great team today. I have to thank our assistant coach who told me to use my big body. My job was to go inside and if I can't make it by myself then pass the ball out."
Okapi Aalstar head coach Brad Dean
"This is a very difficult place to play. The home team is very solid and they got a lot of good players. They got into foul trouble, especially their big guys. Our energy level was high and we had great confidence. The situation is wide open in this group."
Team Teho Sport Kotka player Sefton Barrett
"We executed well in the first two quarters but then we made some key mistakes in the third quarter. We won the rebounds but we couldn't take the benefits out of it."
Team Teho Sport Kotka head coach Sami Toiviainen
"Our first goal was to stop their point guard Derek Raivio and we were able to do it well. We won the rebounds, we took 17 offensive rebounds for the first time this season. In the second half there were a few moments when we missed our point guard Sharaud Curry but it wasn't the reason for this loss."