DTL EKA AEL Lemesos ensured their EuroCup quarter-final tie with Azovmash would go to a deciding third game after edging a hotly contested clash with the Ukrainian champions 85-79 on Friday night.
Azovmash, who won the first game in the best-of-three series 88-63 on Tuesday, took the lead early in the first quarter and were never behind during the first half, heading in for the interval with a 44-39 advantage over their Cypriot opponents.
But the hosts rallied after the break, and Milutin Aleksic's three-pointer with 5:48 remaining in the third handed Lemesos the lead for the first time, 55-52. Jeron Roberts' jump shot three minutes later saw the advantage balloon to nine points, but Azovmash rallied again and guard Oleksandr Rayevskyy's long-range effort reduced the deficit to two points before Michael King's jumper handed Lemesos a four-point cushion heading into the final quarter.
Zydrunas Urbonas increased the gap to six points with a lay-up 50 seconds into the fourth, but Slaven Rimac poured in two free throws and Ricardo Auturo Powell bagged a two-pointer to bring Azovmash back to within two points. Powell added another from the charity stripe before Kenan Bajramovic scored on the lay-up to fire the visitors in front once more, 68-67. The teams then traded blows for the remainder of the game, the lead changing hands twice before Lemesos began to pull away down the stretch.
King's jump shot with 2:35 remaining eventually handed the Cypriots the lead for good, with Aleksic's two successes from the free-throw line inside the final minute ensuring the six-point cushion at the buzzer.
Aleksic led Lemesos with an inspired performance, pouring in 21 points and claiming seven rebounds and five assists. Roberts weighed in with 20 points while center Ryan Randle added 13. Bajramovic top scored with 19 points in a losing cause for Azovmash, who shot seven of 18 (38.8%) from beyond the charity stripe. Lemesos, meanwhile, poured in 10 of 23 (43.4%) from long-range, with Aleksic particularly impressive, finding the target with three of his four attempts for a 75% completion rate.
The two teams meet again in Mariupol on Wednesday to see who will join Virtus Bologna and Estudiantes in the Final Four.