Proteas EKA AEL finished their EuroCup 2008 campaign with a Final Four third place, after beating Tartu Rock 79-70 in Limassol, Cyprus on Sunday night.
The Cypriot side's win was never really in doubt as they took an early lead in the first quarter and maintained a comfortable margin throughout the game.
Tartu had several chances for a comeback but missed too many open shots from long range and lost too many balls in transition to prevent them from doing so.
"We had 21 turnovers and that's too many for us," commented Tartu's coach Ullar Kerde at the end of the game.
Ryan Randle scored 13 points for Proteas in the first quarter when the hosts took an 21-15 lead. He finished with 22 points and seven rebounds and was there when his team needed him.
Tartu Rock got only six points from their big man, Brian Cusworth, and without the 19 points from 37-year-old shooter Gert Kullamae things might had been worse for the Estonian team.
|Gert Kullamäe's efforts were not enough for Tartu|
Proteas was a mere four-from-24 from long range but Tartu didn't fare much better, with only three-from-21 on the night.
The hosts missed Milutin Aleksic, Maxime Zianveni and Olivier Ilunga due to injuries but saw Alexandros Liatsos step up with his best performance of the EuroCup season - 14 points and five rebounds.
Tartu's George Tsintsadze wasn't as influential as usual, and finished with a season high of eight turnovers.
Randle outplayed Tartu's centers in the first quarter when his team took a 19-11 lead, on the way to a six point lead at the end of the quarter.
Kullamae then started to collect points as Tartu made it just a one point game. Vallo Allingu came off the bench for Tartu to play good defense on Randle, but in the second quarter it was time for Duane Woodward to do the damage and fire his team to a nine point advantage, 35-26.
Woodward ended with 20 points in addition to five rebounds.
Randle's dunk made it a seven point game at half time, 41-34, as Tartu were still looking for solutions.
"We wanted to win the Final Four but we lost in the semi-finals," said Karim Souchu "Today we really wanted to show we have heart and pride and that's what we did."
Souchu showed a lot of activity in the first part of the second half, and after Cusworth committed his fourth foul Proteas once again escaped to a nine point lead, 53-44 midway in the third quarter.
Proteas entered their last quarter of the season leading 60-54 before Souchu and Randle made it a 10 point game.
Tartu made one more attempt to change things when Kullamae hit a three pointer to cut the difference to just four, 69-65 with 2:34 to play, but that's the closest they got.
Woodward answered with a long distance jumper and Liatsos continued his good game as Proteas finished on top.
Ullar Kerde, coach Tartu:
"It was a very difficult game for us because Proteas were well prepared. They played very tough basketball. My players weren't ready to beat a team like Proteas. We made 21 turnovers and that's too much for us, and our point guard made eight of those. We missed too many free throws and that was another key reason."
Janar Talts, player Tartu Rock:
"The biggest problem was the turnovers and the shooting percentages. In the first half the worst part for us was that we didn't play team basketball. We tried to make individual plays. We played better in the second half but it wasn't better to beat them. We finished fourth but I hope we'll do better next season."
Karim Souchu, player Proteas EKA AEL:
"We wanted to win the Final Four but we lost in the semi-finals, so today we really wanted to show we have heart and pride and that's what we did. We missed some players because of injury, but we played good on the rebound and we didn't want to get embarrassed for the second time in front of our fans. We showed them we can win for them. Everybody contributed today in rebound and points. We paid for not playing official games for so long and after the game on Friday it was easier for us to play today."