KK Zagreb needed overtime and a stunning double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds by Krunoslav Simon to claim a thrilling and nail-biting 72-70 win at Artland Dragons in Group J.
|Krunoslav Simon had a stellar performance with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists in the narrow triumph|
The Croatian club made an early run to move 9-4 ahead but it was the Dragons that edged the first quarter 13-11 with both defences on top.
The pace then changed as the respective offences finally picked up in the second quarter but the outside games of each team remained pretty much stone cold.
A 7-0 burst midway through the period by Zagreb looked promising but Artland Dragons managed to get their noses in front once again at 30-29 led by Darren Fenn who claimed 15 first half points in fifteen minutes.
Artland surged ahead 46-40 and it looked like the resistance of the visitors could break but they posted seven unanswered points and heading into the last ten minutes of action, the game was finely poised at 49-49.
Simon drilled a big three for Zagreb to hand them the lead at the start of the fourth bit with five minutes to go, the pendulum had swung back to the hosts who moved 59-58 ahead.
In a nail-biting finale it looked like Zagreb might edge it until with 13 seconds remaining, Folarin Campbell tied the game up at 66-66 from the line. Simon had the last shot in regulation for Zagreb but couldn't make the three-pointer.
Both teams felt the tension of the extra period but it was Zagreb that prevailed as they held their breath as Toby Bailey missed a triple for Artland with 8 seconds left.
Fittingly it was Simon, who also recorded 5 assists, who grabbed the all important rebound to resign the home team to defeat.
Thorsten Leibenath, head coach Artland Dragons:
„It was a tough and close game, but also well played. Our defensive excecution was good, we allowed a good offensive team a lot less points than they usually score. In our offense we also did a good job and had 18 assists. Two things are bothering me: The 17 turnovers, that are too many and the fact that our best three three point shooters Seggelke, Prewitt and Bailey combine for 0 out of 15. There we weren't lucky enough. But that's basketball, we have to get out of this dale and keep working hard.“
Darren Fenn, Artland Dragons center:
„It was a tough game against a very good team. Our defense and excecution was good at times. We missed a lot of threes, they also missed a lot of threes. It is easy to see what their game plan was, to get the ball inside. They also had some good foul shots. It is a tough loss.“
Denis Bajramovic, head coach KK Zagreb:
„It was a very tough and hard game. We knew about the qualitiy of Artland with a lot of american players. The spectators are also a very good factor for them, it was a good atmosphere during the whole game in the arena. In our offense we had a good balance between the inside and outside play and in our defense we made an advantage with changing from zone to man-to-man. I have to congratulate my players for their motivation, because we played without our best player Damir Mulaomerovic.“
Luka Zoric, player KK Zagreb:
„After a very tough game in our national championship we needed that win to build new confidence. This was a very hard game and also tough, but this win was so important for us. It was a big step towards the quarterfinals.“