|Kyle Landry led all scorers with 18 points|
TURNING POINT: Szolnok went up 59-54 on two Justin Holiday free throws with 1:35 left in the game but Triumph got the defensive stops from then on and scored the last seven points in the game to clinch the win.
GAME HERO: Kyle Landry was something of a hero and a villain for Triumph, as he could not help his team with their Achilles heel on the boards but came up with big shots to keep Triumph in the game when their primary offensive options were not working. He finished with a game-high 18 points on an outstanding 6-for-9 from the floor.
STATS DON'T LIE: Triumph were not allowed to run in transition and were out-rebounded 44 to 26, but also kept Szolnok to just 34% shooting from two-point range and provoked 20 turnovers, including the crucial ones in the clutch.
The normally high-scoring Triumph Lyubertsy managed to come up with a plan B on Friday night in Bologna and grind out a 61-59 victory over Szolnoki Olaj in the first semi-final of the EuroChallenge Final Four.
Szolnok showed their intentions right from the start by dominating the battle on the glass with an iron fist early on and out-muscling Triumph to take a 9-5 lead midway through the first quarter.
Triumph head coach Vasiliy Karasev, who had watched from the sidelines as his players lost every single rebound during the opening five minutes, did not hesitate in calling a time-out so early in the game.
Two back-to-back three-pointers, one from Evgeny Voronov and one from Kyle Landry, gave Triumph a much needed breath and a 13-11 lead.
The lead was however short-lived as Obie Trotter drilled a triple of his own with 21 seconds remaining in the first frame to restore Szolnok in the driver's seat, 14-13.
Szolnok were so successful in controlling the pace and denying Triumph's transition game that the first fast-break points of the Russian side came with 7:37 remaining in the second quarter, when Voronov reduced to 16-15 with a lay-up.
The Hungarian team's match-up zone defence had kept the EuroChallenge second-leading scorer, Cory Higgins under lock and key for almost the entire first half.
But the American guard manufactured just some inches of space to hit a fade-away jumper with 1:35 left to half-time and then, with 35 seconds remaining to the interval, he charged to the basket, was fouled and converted an and-one play to give Triumph their biggest lead all night, 31-25.
Szolnok not only levelled the scores soon after the break but also took their first five-point lead, 38-33, on five consecutive points from Justin Holiday midway through the third.
Milovan Rakovic stopped the rot for Triumph from the foul line but it was Landry who drilled two tough shots and prevented Szolnok from pulling away, as the third buzzer found the two teams tied at 43.
Holiday, with two free throws, capped Szolnok's 11-2 fourth frame burst and gave his team a 59-54 lead with just 1:29 left to play.
But Jeremy Chappell grabbed a rare offensive rebound for Triumph and quickly reduced to 59-56 and then Voronov disposed Holiday and made it a one-point game with a lay-up in the open court, 59-58.
Szolnok called a time out but after play resumed Lorant missed a lay-up in traffic and, with 22 seconds left, Higgins sunk a seemingly impossible baseline jumper to bring Triumph ahead, 60-59 and prove that he can be clutch even if he doesn't score close to his season average.
Szolnok run down the clock and David Vojvoda drove to the Triumph basket when there were only six seconds left, but was forced to turn the ball over and the Russians secured the win after Voronin split two free throws on the other end of the floor.
Next to top-scorer Landry, Higgins finished with 12 points for Triumph and Rakovic added 11 points and five rebounds while for Szolnok, Holiday had 16 points and Strahinja Milosevic collected a double-double of 11 points and 11 boards in defeat.
Triumph Lyubertsy Head Coach Vasiliy Karasev
"For us it was a very tough schedule as we had been one month without a game, we only had practice and we lost our game rhythm a little bit. In the first half we had a huge problem under our basket because they are a bigger, stronger team and they took a lot more rebounds than us. We still played hard though and we managed to win in the end. We always try to change some tactics [according to the rival] but in this game we changed something after only five minutes in the game because we had nothing under the basket. We tried to play faster, but it's hot in the gym! Right now in Russia it is 1 degree Celsius and in Italy it's 22 degrees and it was hard for the guys to run and breath."
Triumph Lyubertsy Power Forward Kyle Landry
"They have a big team and they are a strong team so we gave up a lot more rebounds that we want, but we played hard and we forced a lot of turnovers and we won. We knew it was going to be a close game all they way because they are a good team but we thought if we can play our game we would win and that's what happened. My team-mates worked hard to get me open shots and I made them, but it was still a team effort all around. When we needed Cory [Higgins] to make the shot at the end of the game he made it, he is our clutch guy, he's won a lot of games for us this year."