|Karsiyaka Arena was packed for the hosts semi-final clash with EWE Baskets Oldenburg|
TURNING POINT: On a night that followed a plot full of twists, Karsiyaka's victory was only sealed when first Melvin Sanders and then William Thomas came up with successive big blocks in the final 25 seconds to deny Oldenburg the chance to take anything else but a desperation shot, almost at the buzzer.
GAME HERO: Karsiyaka's bench players, often underrated, played their roles to perfection in a clash with a team that arrived to the Final Four on the strength of its deep rotation and had eight players averaging 7.6 points or more so far in the competition.
STATS DON'T LIE: Karsiyaka's three Turkish players who came off the bench, Caner Topaloglu, Ümit Sonkol and Can Mutaf, contributed 17 points in the clutch while Oldenburg got only three points from their non-starters throughout the entire game, a season-low for the German side.
Final Four hosts Pinar Karsiyaka edged out EWE Baskets Oldenburg 66-62 in front of a jubilant 5,000-strong home crowd on Friday night to book their place in the EuroChallenge Final, where they will face Krasnye Krylia.
The Turkish side prevailed over their German guests in an epic semi-final that advanced in nail-biting fashion as a game of small runs; it featured 15 lead changes, the scores were tied on 11 occasions and neither team led, at any point on the night, by more than five points.
The two teams were tied at 17 at the end of the first quarter, Karsiyaka led 30-28 at half-time, and Ümit Sonkol scored his first points right at the third buzzer, with a tip-in following a missed William Thomas jumper, to make it 47-46 for Karsiyaka going into the final frame.
Sonkol scored again, from beyond the three-point arc, at the start of the fourth quarter to give his team further breathing space, but Dru Joyce sunk a three to bring Oldenburg back within one point, 50-49 and, a couple of wasted possessions later, Rickey Paulding hit a jumper to give the lead back to the Germans, 51-50.
Can Topaloglu drew a foul immediately and hit both free throws to put the hosts back up, 52-51.
It was the most unceremonious lead change in a clash that featured numerous spectacular dunks and big shots from any range, but it was going to be the last lead change in the semi-final.
|Robert Dixon led the way for Pinar Karsiyaka with 18 points and six assists|
Karsiyaka maintained a minimum two-point cushion until 25 seconds from the final buzzer when Robert Dixon, who was running down the clock, drew a foul from Christopher Kramer and made both his shots from the charity line to make it 66-62.
The blocks of Sanders and Thomas did the rest to turn this into the final score, as all Oldenburg could manage was a three-point shot from Rickey Paulding at the buzzer, which would have been of no consequence even if it had dropped in.
Karsiyaka's win gives William Thomas, the American-born power forward who has acquired Georgian nationality, the chance to extend his lead as the all-time leading rebounder in the EuroChallenge and also chase third position on the leading scorers table in the history of the competition.
In Friday's semi-final, Thomas finished with 10 points and six points while Dixon had a team-high 18 points and dished out six assists and Jon Diebler chipped in with 11 points, two rebounds and two assists.
Oldenburg big man Adam Chubb led all scorers with 19 points and added a game-high eight rebounds and had 17 points in defeat.