The Antwerp Giants and BC "Minsk-2006" tied 87-87 in Belarus in the first leg of the Eurochallenge Qualifying Round on Tuesday, leaving the contest completely open for the return leg.
Bryan Hopkins led the way for Antwerp with a game-high 31 points, going 7 of 15 from behind the three-point arc, while Darnell Wilson added 17 points for the visitors.
Tywain McKee tallied 20 points for Minsk and was seconded by Aleh Kojenets's 15 points.
Minsk started out strong, opening a 13-7 lead early, but Antwerp answered with an 8-0 run fueled by Hopkins' hot hand. The shooting guard netted 17 in the opening quarter and his fourth three-pointer put the visitors up 35-28 heading into the second.
With a little more than six minutes to play before halftime, Minsk regained the lead at 40-39 on a Aliaksei Trastsinetski jump shot, but Hopkins hit right back with a three-pointer.
Wilson's two-plus-one put Antwerp in front by six points, but McKee scored his 15th point of the game and Trastsinetski nailed a three-pointer to put Minsk up 53-52 to end the half.
Antwerp went on a 7-0 run, capped by a Hopkins jumper, to open up a 63-55 advantage mid-way through the third period and entered the final quarter up 73-64.
Minsk fought back to get to within two points (73-71) early in the fourth, but Hopkins stepped up with another three-pointer and Antwerp pushed ahead 81-71 on a layup by Roel Moors with under five to play.
The home team was not done, however, and tied the game on back-to-back jumpers by Dzianis Korshuk at 85-85 with 1:33 to go after consecutive steals by the Minsk defense.
Trent Strickland scored a layup with ten seconds to play to give Antwerp the lead, but McKee answered with a score inside to even the odds going into the second and deciding game in Belgium on October 5.
Anwerp Head Coach Eddy Casteels
"The game was like we was wait it. But before it I was sure that we'll leave Minsk with 10 points ahead. But it was very difficult to make. I'm not surprised with this. I've known about talent of MacKee, I've known about talent of Sanders, King and Korshuk. But we hope to win at home."
Antwerp player Bryan Hopkins
"We've controlled game from begin till halftime. But after that we done some important mistakes which gave "Minsk" possibility to get us and equalize score."
Minsk Head Coach Andrey Krivonos
"It is always difficult to play first game at home. We trying to show our best for our spectators but three weeks of trainings isn't enough to make a team playing well. Now we have some days to work at our mistakes and'll trying to be stronger enough in Belgium."
Minsk player Dzianis Korshuk
"We have shown our best at this moment and I can't say nothing bad about any of my partners. Everyone is very strong and we'll stronger from game to game."