|12 December 2012|
Eight teams rose to the occasion, to a bigger or lesser extent, on the final day of the Regular Season and claimed the last remaining tickets to the Last 16 of the EuroChallenge.
We break down the Tuesday night events that led to these nine contenders that are prolonging their run in the competition.
|Steven Burtt led the way for Tofas, as they edged out KRKA to qualify for the Last 16 |
TOFAS BURSA FROM GROUP A
All the omens were pointing to a very close to call encounter between KRKA Novo Mesto and Tofas SC Bursa on Tuesday and the two contenders did not disappoint.
Tofas, who were half a step ahead of their hosts throughout the direct clash for a spot in the Last 16 from Group A, stepped it up in the clutch.
The visitors used an 11-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to take a 10-point lead, 68-58, and withstood the KRKA charge the rest of the way to claim the second qualifying spot from the group with a 72-70 win.
Once again, point guard Steven Burtt was a real leader for Tofas with 20 points, seven assists and three steals.
Pinar Karsiyaka, who put on a show for their fans against bottom-of-the-table Michelin ETHA Engomi, 105-61, took first place in the group with a 5-1 record and Tofas claimed second at 4-2.
JOENSUUN KATAJA FROM GROUP B
In Group B, Joensuun Kataja failed to snap Krasnye Krylia's undefeated run on the road but at least succeeded in losing by a small margin in Samara, 66-58.
It proved enough though as Keravnos Strovolou not only failed to take the big win they needed at CSU Asesoft Ploiesti, but slumped to a 90-87 defeat despite leading 48-37 at half-time.
Kataja owe a lot to Ploiesti's Vladimir Tica, one of the top performers of the day anywhere in the EuroChallenge, who derailed Keravnos's mission with his 30 points and seven rebounds.
The Finnish side took second place in the group with a 3-3 record behind the perfect Krasnye Krylia (6-0).
NORRKÖPING DOLPHINS FROM GROUP C
A similar scenario unfolded in Group C, with the first act involving the Södertälje Kings getting unceremoniously knocked out of the race for a top-two finish with a 90-56 defeat at unbeaten group leaders BK Ventspils.
The Norrköping Dolphins then had to avoid losing by more than nine points to Tampereen Pyrintö on the road, and managed to do just that.
The hosts took their biggest lead of the game, 47-37, just before the half-time buzzer but jubilation among the Finnish fans in the stands started diminishing as the Swedes came back to win the third quarter and level the scores at 61.
Propelled by the home crowd, Pyrintö found a second wind and re-built an eight-point gap, 84-76, with just 33 seconds left on the clock.
But this was as close as Pyrintö came to qualifying, as the Dolphins kept their calm from the charity stripe and made four consecutive free throws to limit the damage to a good-as-golden four-point loss, 84-80.
Norrköping's forward Anton Saks, with his 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the floor was instrumental in denying Pyrintö a spot in the next phase.
The Dolphins prevailed in the three-way tie with the Kings and Tampere at 2-4 and accompany perfect Ventspils (6-0) to the Last 16.
|Willie Deane had a game-high 17 points and eight rebounds to help Khimik qualify|
KHIMIK YUZHNE FROM GROUP D
In Group D, Khimik Yuzhne banged their fist on the table to end all hopes JDA Dijon Basket and Tartu University Rock had of qualifying, with a decisive 89-66 win over Gaz Metan Medias.
The Ukrainian side were simply unstoppable on Tuesday, leading the Romanians from start to finish behind excellent performances by a trio of players.
Willie Deane finished with 17 points and 8 assists, Artem Pustovyi contributed 12 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks and Suad Sehovic collected a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Khimik's victory rendered Dijon's 83-61 success over Tartu pointless, as the Yuzhne outfit prevailed over Medias in the tie at the top and both sides qualified with a 4-2 record.
SZOLNOKI OLAJ FROM GROUP F
Coach Nedeljko Asceric agreed to terms with Szolnoki Olaj on Monday evening and barely had time to learn his players' names before his new team's do-or-die clash in Group F against BC Timisoara on Tuesday.
Latvian forward Ernests Kalve introduced himself in the best possible way, as he came up with season-highs in points (32), rebounds (8) and assists (4) to carry the Hungarian side to a vital 77-71 victory.
Allowing for a poor second quarter, which Timisora won 29-15, Szolnoki were better throughout and deserved the win that allowed them to secure qualification to the Last 16.
Szolnoki finished in second place in the group with a 3-2 record behind the undefeated EWE Baskets Oldenburg (6-0), after the Germans denied Lami-Véd Körmend a shot at the second spot with a demoralising 90-67 win on the road.
TSMOKI-MINSK FROM GROUP G
BCM Gravelines Dunkerque and Tsmoki-Minsk delivered the goods on Tuesday and claimed the top two spots in Group G with authority.
The Belarusians had a tough mission but played outstanding defence against SLUC Nancy for 30 minutes to take a 48-35 lead over their hosts at the end of the third quarter.
Playing in front of over 5,000 home fans, Nancy attempted a comeback as time was running out but Minsk managed to hold on in the fourth and take a valuable 63-57 win to qualify as second in the group.
Ater Majok led the balanced Minsk offence with 11 points and Aliaksandr Kudrautsau chipped in with 10 points and six assists.
BCM had already booked their ticket for the Last 16 the week before and secured top spot in the group, as they breezed past Pizza Express Apollon, 88-64, at home.
Ludovic Vaty led the French charge with 24 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
|Telekom Baskets Bonn eased past Armia to book their spot in the Last 16|
TELEKOM BASKETS BONN, HAPOEL UNET HOLON FROM GROUP H
Telekom Baskets Bonn were in control of their own destiny and would qualify with a win on the road against Armia.
The Germans duly delivered by leading from start to finish and cruising to an 102-77 success, behind 21 points from Robert Vaden and 16 points from Kyle Weems.
Drama was in short supply in Georgia, but the clash in Belgium between Port of Antwerp Giants and Hapoel Unet Holon more than made up for it.
The hosts needed a win by 26 points or more to pry a qualifying spot away from the Israelis and led by five at half-time, but were definitely wide off the mark after the third quarter, as they fell behind 58-57.
Bryan Hopkins glanced at the clock as the two two teams headed back to the court for the final stanza and probably thought ten minutes was sufficient time to pull it off.
The American guard started hitting the one trey after the other and scored 24 points in that quarter alone, to guide his team to a comeback against all odds.
The Giants went up 92-71 on a Gregory Thondique dunk 15 seconds from the final buzzer but they missed two consecutive three-point shots while Hapoel managed to regain their lost composure and escaped with a 93-74 loss that tasted like the sweetest of victories.
Hopkins finished with 42 points and claimed Week 6 MVP honours as a small consolation, while Franklin Hassell picked up a double-double of 15 points and 15 rebounds for Holon.
Bonn, Hapoel and Antwerp finished level with a 4-2 record with the Germans claiming top spot and the Israelis second in the three-way tie.