|11 October 2005|
By Jeff Taylor, PA Sport
Gran Canaria held on for 73-71 victory at BC Zadar on Tuesday night in a thrilling opening to the EuroCup competition.
The Canary Islanders, one of two Spanish sides in the EuroCup, had to sweat it out until the very end at the Jazine basketball hall as Jure Lalic missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
Harper Williams, a 34-year-old veteran of European basketball, had a game-high 22 points for Gran Canaria.
The situation looked very good for the visitors when Sitapha Savane's lay-up gave them their biggest lead at 67-60 with six minutes and 27 seconds remaining but BC Zadar, a basketball club with a tradition that dates back to the 1920s, refused to fold.
FYROM center Todor Gecevski, who led his side with 17 points on the night, scored six straight points on a jump shot, a lay-up and another jump shot to pull Zadar back to 67-66 with 4:49 to play.
Marcus Norris buried a three-pointer for Gran Canaria to settle their nerves and give them a 70-66 advantage, but the red-hot Gecevski came right back, receiving a pass from Jakov Vladovic and making another jumper, while also drawing a foul from Norris.
He made the free throw to pull the home side back to 70-69 with 3:12 to play.
The following sequence then shifted the momentum to Gran Canaria. Williams, a 2.04m center, came right back for Gran Canaria and drew a foul from Gecevski - his fifth of the night - and made both free throws to stretch the lead back to three.
Without Gecevski, Zadar had to look for another source of points. Damir Tvrdic came to the fore, making a jumpshot to trim his side's deficit to one at 72-71 with less than a minute to play.
Failure to box out and rebound Gran Canaria missed shots then killed Zadar. First, Norris' missed three-pointer with 33 seconds remaining was rebounded by team-mate Jason Klein, and then, when Klein's shot from the arc with 15 seconds to go was off target, his fellow Canary Islander Victor Baldi snatched the offensive board to keep possession.
Frano Colak had to foul Jim Moran to stop the clock for Zadar.
With eight seconds to play, native New Yorker and Gran Canaria veteran Moran made the first but missed the second.
Zadar had a chance to tie, or win, but Lalic's three-pointer was off the mark and Gran Canaria escaped with a two-point win in Group B.
This is only opening night, but Gran Canaria have sparked their season into life with a terrific triumph while BC Zadar will have to go back to the drawing board.