|Szolnoki Olaj point guard Obie Trotter led all scorers with 20 points |
Szolnoki Olaj showed they can win big games on the road by downing BK Ventspils on Tuesday to join the Final Four party in the EuroChallenge.
Beaten like a drum in Game 1 in Latvia, the Hungarians evened the best-of-three series on Thursday in front of their own fans and then travelled back to Ventspils and won Game 3, 82-78.
Obie Trotter finished with 20 points, including a perfect eight-of-eight night at the free-throw line.
Six of those shots from the charity stripe came in the last minute of the contest when the Hungarian team killed the game off.
Szolnoki shooting guard Julien Mills was also immense with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Ventspils had a magnificent campaign in Europe and led by 14 late in the first quarter, but Gundars Vetra's side didn't deliver the knockout punch.
Instead Peter Por's team clawed its way back and went in front at 45-44 when Akos Horvath drilled a shot from the arc to cap an 8-0 run.
Mamadi Diane went to the other end and buried a three-ball for Ventspils, only for Zoltán Trepák to connect from long range for the visitors on their next possession.
His two free-throws extended the lead to 52-47 but Steven Gray's three-pointer for Ventspils cut the Szolnoki advantage to 52-50, with just 10 minutes remaining.
The game remained tight, with an Arturs Berzins three-pointer giving Ventspils a 60-58 lead.
Berzins' three-point play put Ventspils in front, 63-60, with 4:28 to go.
Hristo Nikolov, who has hit a lot of big three-pointers for Szolnoki this season, nailed one with 3:18 to go for a 66-65 lead and then sank two free-throws on the team's next trip down the floor.
Szolnoki ended up hitting nine of 10 free-throws in the last 48 seconds to seal the victory.
Gray's three-pointer at the death for Ventspils left Szolnoki with an 82-78 win.
Szolnoki were 22 of 30 (73.3%) at the free-throw line while Ventspils took seven trips to the line and made all of them.
Por's club has won 12 of its 13 home games in the EuroChallenge the past two seasons and now, they have a famous road win to brag about.
Szolnoki are two wins away from the title.
They have joined Elan Chalon and Besiktas Milangaz in the Final Four.
Szolnoki center Marton Bader
"We are very proud and happy with the result. Ventspils is a good team with good chemistry, they have deserved to be in the top 8 or top 6. But this is basketball."
Szolnoki head coach Peter Por
"From all these three games this was the weakest by Ventspils. If we consider the game after the second half, we looked better and deserved to win today. With every game our team looked better. After the first game we changed some details in our defense and offence and this helped us, and also because we showed character."
Ventspils power forward Arturs Berzins
"Congratulations to Szolnoki Olaj for the win. I wish them good luck. We made mistakes in important moments. I think 15 turnovers in such an important game is too much."
Ventspils head coach Gundars Vetra
"I suppose they deserved to win more than us, I wish Szolnoki Olaj good luck in further games. At the beginning we took the lead very easily, but in the second half our oponents caught us. We made mistakes on the court and this prevented us from winning. But it is not so bad, because my guys showed that they are good team and now we have to get over this loss and prepare for further games in other leagues."