|Branko Mirkovic and Tsmoki Minsk survivd a tense finish to edge out Rilski Sportist|
A fourth-quarter comeback from Rilski Sportist fell agonisingly short as they lost 78-73 to Tsmoki Minsk in EuroChallenge Group H.
The hosts began the fourth quarter trailing by 18 points and seemingly out of contention, but they cut the gap all the way down to three with 19 seconds left.
However, Corin Henry missed a chance to tie it and Parrish Petty iced the game for Minsk from the free-throw line.
Vincent Hunter led Minsk with 24 points and 11 rebounds, with Demonte Harper adding 18 with eight boards.
Having started slowly, Minsk had turned the game around with a 18-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters, coming from 24-11 down to lead 29-24 when Mikita Meshcharakou made a lay-up with 3:23 to go until half-time.
From there, they had seemed in complete control, with the lead growing to 18 when Hunter capped a 12-0 burst with a jump shot to make it 57-39 with 53 ticks left in the third period.
But Auston Calhoun scored five quick points to start the fourth as Rilski began the job of clawing their way back.
Henry added a three and a jump shot to make it 63-52, and two free throws from Evan Ravenel had it back to 74-67 with 1:38 to go.
Hunter padded the visitors' lead but they were contributing to their own downfall as Rilski capitalised on turnovers, Ravenel's jump shot making it 76-73 with 19 seconds to go.
Hunter missed two free throws to give Rilski a chance to tie it, but Henry's shot bounced clear and Petty showed the necessary composure in sinking both shots from the line with six seconds left.
Zlatin Georgiev had 15 points for Rilski with Henry adding 13 and 12 assists. Ravenel collected 12 points and eight rebounds.
Tsmoki Minsk center Vincent Hunter
"I think it was a very good game, very intense with a very good crowd. Our coaches prepared us very well to get the victory here so I think it was a very good game for us."
Tsmoki Minsk head coach Donaldas Kairys
"I knew that it would be a hard game for us against a very physical and athletic team. We knew that we would have some hard moments especially in fast break situations. At the beginning we were losing and not controlling the game. We couldn't get stops and we weren't shooting the ball well. In the second quarter, some things worked out for us, we got some stops and we controlled the rebounds throughout the game which is just one of the key factors. In the second and the third quarter we got to a comfortable lead by playing our game and in the last one we fell apart in some moments. It's a very good win for us and we have a tough job to do to clean up our game."
Rilski Sportist head coach Rosen Barchoski
"We had an open shot to tie the score but we had no luck at the end. We are lacking experience. The biggest surprise came out from their center Hunter, who, so far was 1/12 in three-point shooting and tonight he was 4/4. We need experience but at least we fought until the end. There are still a lot of games left and we have not given up."
Rilski Sportist forward Zlatin Georgiev
"I think it was an interesting game. We had a chance to win but we also had very big ups and downs in the second and third quarters when I think we didn't play as we had to in defense. In the second quarter they came back in the game and then in the third they took a big lead. Then in the last quarter we managed to come close but we had no luck."