|Devin Green of Lukoil Akademic led all scorers with 20 points on 70% shooting from the floor, but it was KRKA who earned a spot in the Final Four|
KRKA Novo Mesto clinched a 71-69 victory over Lukoil Academic on Wednesday evening to earn a place at the EuroChallenge Final Four.
The Bulgarian side, which had won Game 1 in Slovenia but then slipped to defeat in Game 2 back in Sofia, led for much of the decider but finished just short of the competition's gala event.
Brandon Heath missed a potential game-winning three-pointer in the waning seconds for the visitors.
KRKA have joined Spartak Saint-Petersburg and Lokomotiv Kuban in the Final Four, with those two sides advancing after their respective 2-0 sweeps of Pinar Karsiyaka and BCM Gravelines.
Goran Ikonic led KRKA with 17 points while Chris Booker had a game-high 11 boards to go with his eight points.
Lukoil got a strong performance from Devin Green, who had 11 points by half-time and 18 at the end of the third quarter.
It was late in the penultimate frame when Lukoil had a 48-42 advantage.
Jovica Arsic's team was still on top 61-56 midway through the fourth quarter when they lost the initiative.
Chris Booker made a go-ahead lay-up and Jure Balazic followed with a basket for a 66-63 advantage.
Twice in the last minute, Lukoil trimmed the deficit to just one but KRKA kept their noses in front.
Lukoil hurt their cause with poor free-throw shooting, making a mere 13 of 23.
KRKA won the rebounding battle, 39-28.
Lukoil Academic Head Coach Jovica Arsić:
"First I would like to congratulate to Krka. They have a terrific season and they deserved to win. Of course, our win in such a tough game would be deserved as we played a good match. Probably crucial was that Krka won in rebounds."
Lukoil Academic player Travis Petersen:
"As we expected it was really a tough game. We had our chances but just at the end we made too many mistakes and that was crucial. But we still had chance to win. Unfortunately we didn't score in our last attack and Krka won."
KRKA Head Coach Aleksandar Džikić:
"I would like to thank our fans. We won this game together with them. I hope that support will continue in the rest of the season, as we deserve that. This is our second final four this season and no one expected that. I would like to thank my players, the staff members and their families because we do a really hard job. Tonight's game was probably the hardest this season. Lukoil was close to win but we managed to amplify our rhythm in last five minutes. I waited with that as much was possible. It was a risk but the award was really big."
KRKA player Edo Murić:
"I'm really happy. Lukoil is a great team. They play very hard and hey have some great players. We were too nervous in the first half but then coach Dzikic said that we should just go to the court and try to play as relaxed as possible. We did that and at the end with help from our fans we put enormous pressure on the Bulgarian team. In the end our win was really deserved."