|Bozhidar Avramov had 13 points and added 5 assists for Lukoil Academic who took over second spot in the group|
Barak Netanya shaved a 19-point deficit to just one with 1:33 to go but ran out of steam and fell at Lukoil Academic on Tuesday night in the EuroChallenge.
Playing in Bulgaria after losing their all-Israeli clash at home last week to Maccabi Haifa, Netanya lost 84-76 to fall to 0-3 in Last 16 Group I.
Lukoil, beaten in their previous game at home by Spartak Saint-Petersburg, improved to 2-1.
The pre-game concerns about Netanya's quickness voiced by Lukoil coach Jovica Arsic's didn't seem well-founded with 6:29 to do when a Dominic James free-throw gave the hosts a 55-36 advantage.
Netanya, however, getting 32 points in the contest from Romeo Travis, came storming back and reduced the arrears to 57-45 with 3:05 to go in the third period.
Down 67-57 early in the fourth, Anthony Younger's three-ball capped a 7-0 run that cut the gap to just three points.
After taking the advantage back to eight, the Sofia club's fans watched stunned as Travis hit a three-pointer, missed two free-throws but then struck again from the arc before hitting two from the stripe to leave the hosts clinging to a one-point lead.
Damjan Stojanovski hit a driving lay-up for Lukoil and after Travis missed two more free-throws, the home side sank five of six from the charity stripe to go on top 82-74 with only 17 seconds left.
Travis scored again before Lukoil called a timeout and got a an alley-oop dunk from Devin Green for the eight-point triumph.
The other Travis in the game, Travis Peterson of Lukoil, led his side with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Stojanovski added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
"In the first quarter it was a tight game. Then they made a few threes which we knew that was their strong side, and they were up by 14 points in the second quarter. I'm very satisfied with the way we played in the second half because we showed character and we were able to come back in the game. When we were up down in the score only by 2 points we missed a few shots. We did our best to end up the game being down by no more than about 4 or 6 points. Once again, I'm very pleased with the character that my players showed. Tonight we didn't rely too much on the players that usually play the most in the Israeli league and EuroChallenge - Banks and Brown.
Romeo Travis, Barak Netanya player:
"I don't believe in moral victories. We waited for too long to start playing as a team and start playing hard. Everybody on the team should've started the way we finished and I believe it would've been a different game."
Jovica Arsic, head coach LUKOIL Academic:
"I tried to play with most of my players tonight, even with those of them that are not really in good shape at the moment. We definitely had some problems with the transition from defense to offence at the beginning of both halves. In our team there's not a strictly defined starting five. The players that are playing well and are having a momentum get more time on the court. We have pretty good chances to qualify further on in the tournament. I hope that we will play way better in our second game against Netanya on the road."
Bruno Sundov, LUKOIL Academic player:
"It was a very hard game for us. We weren't in control of the game even when we were up by 15 and we let the other team come back. We cannot let this happen, especially on the home court. It was an ugly game, we fought through and we won, this is the most important thing. We have another very important game coming up, against Haifa at home and it will probably decide our position in this tournament. That's what we have to focus on."