Barons LMT Riga became the first finalists of EuroCup Final Four 2008 after coming from behind to beat Estonian side Tartu Rock 88-82 on Friday night in Limassol, Cyprus.
Barons suffered from a slow start and were down by 18 points late in the second quarter, but a big second half by Demetrious Alexander, sparked the Latvian side's comeback.
Alexander led all scorers with 25 points.
Raimonds Vaikulis was another reason why Barons finished the better team. The Latvian guard played his best game of the season exactly when it mattered.
|Demetrius Alexander had an amazing second half for Barons|
At the end of the first half he stepped up to reduce Tartu's big lead to just nine, and despite getting into foul trouble, he stayed on court to make the big plays until fouling out with less than two minutes to go. He left the game with 11 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.
"Vaikulis had a great game tonight," said Barons' coach, Karlis Muiznieks regarding the guard's performance.
"In the beginning we allowed Tartu to play the way they desired, but in the second half we played a lot better and that showed on the scoreboard.".
Tartu's George Tsintsadze had 16 points and six assists on the day, but most of them came in the first half. Center Brian Cusworth scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds but his influence on the game also came in the first half.
Tartu's Tanel Tein showed great intensity on defense with big plays, while Cusworth on the other end made Barons' soft defense pay and helped Tartu to hold a seven-point-lead at 29-22 lead after ten minutes.
After Armands Skele picked up an injury fighting for the ball Barons's back-court Giedrius Gustas and Vaikulis, both on three fouls, had to be careful for the remainder of the first half.
Tartu already had a 31-49 lead with three minutes to play in the half. Up to that point had an amaing 80% from the field, and looked destined to win.
But things were soon to change.
Dainius Adomaitis started a 9-0 Barons run that that cut the deficit to just nine points, 49-40, at the break.
Barons came back from the locker-room with a more aggressive approach, and that showed immediately.
Tartu took a 52-61 lead with four minutes to play in the third quarter, but then were out-scored 11-3, capped by a big three point play by Gustas, as the team entered the fourth quarters with Tartu up by a single point 63-64.
When Vaikulis nailed a big trey, he gave Barons their first lead of the night, 70-69. Tartu were still in fighting mood but earned their points mostly off the offensive glass.
And then it was Alexander's time.
"I wanted to keep fighting and let them know we can come back," said Alexander after the game. "I wanted our team to keep the faith and be able to win it."
Together with a couple of long range hits by Marlins Kravcenko Barons took a 84-77 lead that put them well in command with a minute and a half to play.
Gert Kullamae tried to save the day with a three pointer but Alexander answered with a long range shot which sealed Barons' win, and a spot in the final.