BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Helped to secure the win in Lyubertsy with late free-throws: Omar Thomas|
EuroChallenge champions Krasnye Krylia Samara and semi-finalists BCM Gravelines Dunkerque emerged victorious in key encounters upon their return from the Final Four in Izmir.
Less than six hours after celebrating their 77-76 win over Pinar Karisyaka in a memorable EuroChallenge final, Krasnye Krylia were on a bus to Izmir airport to catch an early morning flight back to Russia.
The EuroChallenge champions could not afford the luxury of returning home for some well-deserved rest, but had instead to travel to Moscow Region and take on fellow Russian side Triumph Lyubertsy on Wednesday morning, in Game 1 of their VTB United league play-off series.
The Samara side overcame fatigue to prevail 76-69 and make a huge first step towards clinching the series and advancing to the quarter-finals, since they will now play Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 3 at home.
After a close first quarter whose end saw the guests lead by just one point, Krasnye Krylia stepped up their efforts on the defensive end in the second frame to give up only 15 points to their hosts and take a 43-36 lead at the half-time interval.
They continued to pull away in the third, increasing the gap to 12 points but tiredness combined with a sustained attempt at a comeback by Triumph kept spectators at the edge of their seats until the final buzzer.
Sergey Bazarevich's team none the less managed to hold on to their advantage and kept their cool from the charity line in the decisive final minute of the encounter, with Aaron Miles hitting all four of his free throws attempts and Omar Thomas making another two, to seal the victory.
Krasnye Krylia's ability to share the load on offence proved instrumental as no less than nine players scored five points or more for the EuroChallenge champions.
Forward/center Nikita Balashov paved the way with a double-double of 14 points (on 5-for-5 shooting from the floor) and 10 rebounds while Miles finished with 12 points and five assists.
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is on Friday in Samara with the third game on Saturday, should Krasnye Krylia fail to win the series in two games.
BCM REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONS IN FRANCE
|Dwight Buycks and Gravelines Dunkerque secured home-court advantage for the entire play-offs|
BCM meanwhile were proclaimed winners of the Regular Season in the French Pro A after beating Strasbourg 85-79 on the road, on the final day of action on Tuesday night.
Christian Monschau's team, who finished in fourth place at the EuroChallenge Final Four after losing to EWE Baskets Oldenburg on Sunday, topped the standings with a 21-9 record.
Strasbourg took second spot while Lyon-Villeurbanne edged out Elan Chalon/Saone 78-75 to clinch third place and relegate the 2012 EuroChallenge finalists to fourth, right at the photo finish of the Regular Season.
Point guard Dwight Buycks went 8-for-17 from the floor to lead all BCM scorers with 21 points, Kennedy Winston had 17 points and Yannick Bokolo chipped in with 11, while Sarra Camara brought down a game-high 11 boards to go with his four points.
BCM will now have the home-court advantage throughout the post-season and face eighth-placed Nanterre in the first round of the play-offs, which tip-off on 13 May.
Strasbourg will take on Dijon, Lyon-Villeurbanne will go up against Le Mans and Chalon will battle if out with Roanne in the remaining series.