Ukraine's top two teams met on Wednesday night in what could be a Superleage finals preview.
It was BC Kyiv who emerged as winners over champions Azovmash Mariupol after a double overtime thriller.
Lamarr Greer, who was Kyiv’s top scorer in the previous win over Khimik Yuzhniy, carried the momentum over to Mariupol and was simply unstoppable this time. His game-high 44 points include a buzzer-beating three to force the second overtime.
Fans were hoping for another thriller, however Art Long’s great shape and Kyiv’s frontcourt problems made Azovmash a favorite in this match-up.
The game started out with the home side’s dominance and their usual attempts to deliver the ball to Art Long. Kyiv, offensively, also used their big men in one-on-one situations against Art and, eventually, the strategy of wearing him down paid off.
|Lior Lubin nearly gave Azovmash the win in regular time|
“We were expecting Art Long to score 40 points tonight, therefore planned to contain the rest of the team,” said Renato Pasquali, BC Kyiv head coach. “However, he got very tired at the end and was slowly moving around the court.”
Indeed, ever since Art Long got his 4th foul in the middle of the 4th quarter, he wasn’t much of a presence on the defensive end, having to be extremely careful in his attempts to contest opponents’ shots.
This could have been the reason for Lamarr Greer’s scoring outburst, especially in the overtime periods, when the lack of an inside presence gave Greer free reign to drive to the hoop.
It was Azovmash who nearly sealed victory in regulation.
Lior Lubin scored a driving lay up with 5 seconds to go and put his team up by two. The ball was quickly brought in play by Kyiv and Marcus Norris fired a long-range lean-in jumper to beat the buzzer.
It looked as though Norris' jumper would give the win to Kyiv, but it was ajudged a two-pointer and the game went into overtime.
Both teams used the strategy of intentional fouls at the end of the first extratime.
Mariupol maintained a 3-point lead in the first overtime, and used the strategy of fouling Kyiv to prevent them shooting any 3-pointers. However, on the last possession, they failed to stop Greer, and his 8-metre shot sent the game into a second extra period.
Despite a deeper rotation, Azovmash's players were the ones to start fouling out. In the middle of the second over-time Silas Mills, who scored 16 points, was charged with his 5th foul. Shortly after, Vladimir Gurtovoi (21 points) was forced to join him on the bench.
Azovmash’s two top scorers Lior Lubin (26 points and 6 rebounds) and Art Long (24 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocked shots) were remaining on the court, however they never managed to stop the trio, that so well supported Lamarr Greer: Marcelo Nicola (27 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals), Kreso Loncar (18 points and 5 rebounds) and Andrei Lebedev (16 points and 4 steals).
“Azovmash shot with better percentage from the field, so the key to our tonight’s win was minimizing the number of turnovers – we only had 3 versus 15 by our opponents,” summarized Pasquali.