|16 January 2013|
The EuroChallenge resumed on Tuesday clearly influenced by the winter break, as the opening day of the Last 16 saw more action than a toy store at Christmas.
It came complete with the end of an unbeaten run in the competition, an unexpected overtime drama in the televised Game of the Week, and a breakout performance by a 17-year-old prodigy.
Only two teams, Russia's Krasnye Krylia and Germany's EWE Baskets Oldenburg, still stand undefeated after seven weeks of action in total since the Regular Season started.
|Jermaine Flowers spent all 40 minutes on the floor, helping Kataja win with his all-round performance|
When BK Ventspils went up 40-23 over Joensuun Kataja midway through the second quarter of their Group I clash in Finland, the natural order of things seemed to have been restored.
The Latvians had a 19-game winning streak, that spanned over three months, snapped on the weekend in the Baltic League, but the comfy 17-point advantage could only mean the brief parenthesis was closed and they would extend their undefeated run in the EuroChallenge to seven games.
Only the hosts thought otherwise. Kataja stormed back in the third quarter, covered the gap and even took a two-point lead at the end of that period.
They kept their cool enough to make some decisive free throws in the clutch and hold on for an 80-78 victory that left the Latvians wondering what has changed so dramatically in the space of just three days.
Finnish international Petri Virtanen went 8-of-13 from the field and led all scorers with 22 points while an all-round display by Jermaine Flowers was also key for the winners, as the forward finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and six steals.
Pinar Karsiyka also made a winning start to the Last 16 at home, although in substantially less eventful fashion as they routed Gaz Metan Medias 89-59 behind 28 points from point guard Robert Dixon.
|The fans in Szolnok had reason to celebrate, as the home team clinched an important overtime victory |
Szolnoki Olaj showed character and determination in a testing period for the club to claim an unlikely 75-71 win over French league leaders BCM Gravelines Dunkerque at home on Tuesday.
The hosts started off well and led early but their formidable opponents started chipping away at the lead after the half-time interval and Kennedy Winston drained a three-pointer to make it 63-56 with 2:02 left on the clock.
Spurred on by their rowdy fans though, three different Szolnoki players scored from behind the three-point arc on successive possessions while only Yannick Bokolo hit the target for BCM to leave the scores tied at 65.
The French side missed two chances to win the game in the last 12 seconds of regulation and, once it went into overtime, Szolnoki would not let this one slip and started with a 7-2 run that effectively sealed the victory.
Big man Marton Bader was back to his usual best and led the hosts with a 20-point, 12-rebound double-double while another Hungarian international, Akos Horvath, contributed 16 points, five rebounds and three assists to the cause.
The other game in the group, between Paris Levallois and Hapoel Unet Holon was something of an anti-climax in that Holon center Franklin Hassell did not travel to France and the much expected face-off with the hosts' Sean May never took place.
Holon's Lawrence Hill did so well in trying to cover his team-mate's absence that he finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds to earn MVP honours this week.
May however collected another double-double, of 16 points and 14 rebounds, Jawad Williams scored 21 points and John Cox 20 for the Parisians and the home team took a comfortable 83-66 victory.
|Kenan Sipahi celebrates his game winner with team-mate Can Altintig |
Kenan Sipahi does not turn 18 until May but he can already include a game-winning buzzer-beater in his short but very promising curriculum.
The young guard received a pass from Steven Burrt and didn't even blink as he sunk the three-pointer that gave Tofas Bursa a 93-90 win over Khimik Yuzhne at the death on Tuesday.
In truth, the Turkish side could have wrapped it up earlier, as they were playing at home and had built a 15-point lead already in the second quarter.
Khimik though threw everything they had at their hosts with Suad Sehovic leading the charge.
The Montenegrin international hit five of seven shots from behind the arc and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and the Ukrainian side had already balanced proceedings by the start of the fourth quarter.
The guests even took the lead on as many as four occasions in a back-and-forth final stanza and tied the scores at 90 when Tofas called a time-out 15 seconds from time and then returned to the court to trust the youngest player with the most important shot in the game.
Burrt led all Tofas scorers with 20 points and Chinemelu Elonu contributed 13 points and eight rebounds for the winners.
Sipahi meanwhile finished with eight points, including the game-winner and Sehovic had 21 for Khimik in a losing effort.
In the other game in the group, in Russia, Krasnye Krylia saw Andre Smith deliver his best performance in any competition since he returned from injury last month.
The power forward picked up a double-double of 28 points and 12 rebound and the hosts pulled away in the fourth quarter to overcome Norrköping Dolphins 93-75.
Swedish international Joakim Kjellbom, who joined the Dolphins over the winter break, had 18 points in defeat.
|Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and scored nine points for Bonn|
The two German teams in the group dominated their respective clashes, but the 65-60 victory of Telekom Baskets Bonn at Okapi Aalstar made more headlines as it came on the road.
There was little, if anything, between the two opponents in Belgium as the lead changed hands as many as 29 times throughout the night and none of the two led by more than five points at any time.
Bonn clinched the precious away victory mostly because they kept their composure in the clutch and sunk four vital free-throws, while the hosts wasted their last two possessions.
Eight players on the German side wrote their name on the scoresheet, with Kyle Weems leading all Bonn scorers with 15 points and adding five rebounds and three assists.
Benas Veikalas, who shot less but more efficiently than his American team-mate (50 percent from the floor), contributed 12 points, two assists and two rebounds.
Meanwhile back in Germany, EWE Baskets Oldenburg did not captivate their 1,400 fans with their performance but started strong and made the most of the home-court advantage to secure a drama-less, but no less important for it, 74-64 victory over Tsmoki-Minsk.
Five players scored in double digits for Oldenburg who, as usual, rotated a lot.
Christopher Kramer however was the one who stood out on Tuesday with his well-rounded contribution, as he finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Rickey Paulding was also on a good night for the winning side, with 16 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Aliaksei Lashkevich went 7-of-9 from the floor to score 17 points and added eight rebounds in a losing effort, while new signing Vidas Ginevicius had three points on his season debut with Minsk.