Defense Rules As St Petersburg Reach Final Four

24 February 2006
By Jeff Taylor, PA Sport

Dynamo St Petersburg completed a two-game sweep of Maroussi to reach a European Final Four for the second straight season.

The Russian team, which went undefeated en route to last year's FIBA Europe League crown, won 71-59 on Friday after their 64-53 Game 1 triumph at Maroussi earlier in the week.

Kelly McCarty had a game-high 19 in the opening success and he came to the fore for St Petersburg again with 20 points on Friday.

Andrey Ivanov (Dynamo St. Petersburg)
Andrey Ivanov
Andrey Ivanov and Vladimir Veremeenko weighed in with 13 each.

In contrast to last season's open style of play, the hallmark of Fotis Katsikaris' Dynamo team this year has been tough-as-nails defence.

That was evident as Maroussi were held to just 35.6% shooting overall from the floor in Game 2, including 34.2% (12 of 35) inside the arc.

"We were really focused on defense," McCarty said to PA Sport. "We knew it was going to be a possession game. We wanted to take them out of their offense and we did that."

Dynamo took a firm grip on the game with a 13-0 run which began at the end of the first half.

Denis Khloponin's three-pointer with just three seconds left in the second quarter - the forward's third made shot from behind the arc in the EuroCup this season - sent the home side to the changing room with a 36-30 lead.

When play resumed, Dynamo lowered the boom.

Darryl Middleton made a jump shot and then McCarty struck back-to-back three-pointers for a commanding 44-30 advantage less than two minutes into the third quarter.

An Ivanov basket extended the lead to 46-30 before Jared Homan stopped the bleeding with a jumper for Maroussi.

Jerry McCullough hit right back for Dynamo, though. The lead ballooned to 57-38 with five seconds remaining in the third quarter on a lay-up by Damir Miljkovic.

No team coached by Panagiotis Yannakis, the boss of EuroBasket 2005 winners Greece, will ever quit, but Maroussi failed to mount a serious run to give themselves a chance of getting back into the game.

They got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

McCarty, who was the MVP of last season's FIBA Europe League Final Four win, had some early season struggles on offense but he has found his shooting touch of late.

"I just know that in the beginning, I wasn't being so productive on offense," said McCarty, who was voted to the All-Star Day for the second year running.

"I starting worked harder in practice and it's paying off."

Now Dynamo, despite the departure of coach David Blatt to Benetton Treviso and the loss of guards Jon Stefansson and Ed Cota in the summer, are headed to another final four.

"That was one of our goals at the beginning of the season," McCarty said.

"To make it back to the Final Four feels great."

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