By Alexei Naumov
BC Kyiv beat opponents Lokomotiv Rostov on Tuesday night in the EuroCup, gaining a measure of revenge for the defeat they suffered at Lokomotiv's hands in Russia.
However, Kyiv narrowly missed out on the ten point margin of victory necessary if they were to finish the group in first place, and their 78-70 win sees the Ukrainian champions advance to the second round as the runners-up in Group G, with Lokomotiv in first place.
Although both sides were assured of continuing their EuroCup campaigns regardless of the result, neither team was willing to offer less than 100% on the night.
|Despite his early struggles, Ratko Varda finished the game with 13 points for Kyiv|
"I would never ask my players to give up a game", said Kyiv head coach Renato Pasquali prior to the match-up in his interview with the team's official web site. "Even if finishing second would give us a chance to face theoretically weaker opponents, we would still fight for the first place."
The start of the game did not look promising for the hosts, as Ratko Varda, Kyiv's main offensive threat, failed to find his touch. This allowed Lokomotiv to grab an early lead at 5-13 and later at 18-25.
But Lokomotiv's confidence was shaken when Ivica Jurkovic was forced to leave the game for good with an injury.
Little by little, Kyiv started to catch up with their opponents and a basket by Kreso Loncar, who finished with game-high 19 points, gave Kyiv a lead at the end of the first half.
Michael Harris was dominating the boards in the second half and his double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds was crucial for Kyiv.
Kyiv looked to be on course for first place in the group when they led by 10 points shortly before the buzzer. But Lokomitiv's two successful free throws with 4 seconds to go in regulation gave them a well deserved first place in the group.
"I would have been happy with a 1-point win", said Pasquali after the game. "Right now it's very hard to tell what's better - finishing 1st of 2nd."
He also mentioned the absence of team's leaders Lamarr Greer and Dragan Lukovski. The latter missed the game due to an injury, sustained in Kyiv's domestic league win over Cherkassy.
"Kyiv is a very strong team", said Lokomotiv head coach Azo Petrovic. "They can go very far in the tournament and everything will be much different when Lamarr Greer rejoins them."