|Mad-Croc Fuenlabrada Head Coach Porfirio Fisac must be a very happy man, after his team beat Besiktas for the second time and secured home-court advantage in the Quarter-Final Round |
The EuroChallenge had a crazy finish to the Last 16.
For those who sat on the edges of seats and watched their teams live, or monitored games at home, take a deep breath and savor what truly was a fascinating Tuesday night.
The battle for first place in Group K between Besiktas Milangaz and Mad-Croc Fuenlabrada was a humdinger.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu, a British international who will play at the Olympics this summer, poured in 24 points and corralled 10 rebounds yet missed the easiest and most important of lay-ups at the death.
After Saul Blanco made two free-throws for Fuenlabrada for a 78-77 lead, Besiktas gave the ball to Mensah-Bonsu.
He dribbled from outside the top of the key to the left of the basket.
The Fuenlabrada defender, Mike Hall, didn't go up for the block so as not to foul and Mensah-Bonsu had a wide-open shot but his right-handed lay-up wasn't close to going in.
Even if it had of course, it would still not be enough for Besiktas who needed a win by three or more points to top the group, but as it was Fuenlabrada clinched first place and celebrated a morale-boosting victory in Istanbul in the process.
Besiktas must now take on Artland Dragons in a best-of-three showdown, with the Germans having home-court advantage.
There will be a couple of Puerto Rico internationals squaring off with Nathan Peavy a leading player for the German club and Carlos Arroyo in the Besiktas squad.
Arroyo is one of the leading players for Besiktas but he played just four minutes on Tuesday night.
|Just three weeks ago they were left for dead and buried, yet Sergey Karasev and Triumph turned the tables around in spectacular fashion |
Fuenlabrada will go up against Triumph Lyubertsy - perhaps the most unlikely of all the Quarter-Finalists.
Triumph were careering out of control, losers of three straight in Group L of the Last 16, yet under acting head coach Vasily Karasev, they rebounded to win three straight games.
The last of those victories was on Tuesday, a 79-60 drubbing of Antwerp Giants in Moscow.
Jerry Jefferson led the onslaught with 28 points and 10 rebounds for Triumph.
Karasev's son, Sergey, is in the Triumph team and showed again that he is one of Russia's most promising players at the tender age of 18.
He was three of six from behind the arc and scored 19 points.
"We were motivated for this game," he said. "We had to play only one way - to win!"
Triumph needed Artland to win, though, and the Germans did so convincingly against Pinar Karsiyaka in the other Group L clash.
That result knocked the Turkish club out and allowed Triumph to progress.
If Triumph rebounded from an 0-3 start to the Last 16 to advance, BK Ventspils rose from the dead in Group I.
Embarrassed by their 73-69 home defeat to ZZ Leiden on 17 January, a game in which they led 45-22 early in the second half but lost to fall to 0-2, Ventspils clinched their fourth straight victory on Tuesday after an amazing comeback at the end of regulation against Roanne.
Trailing 75-67 with 23 seconds remaining after two Dylan Page free-throws for Roanne, Ventspils got a Jahmar Young three-pointer.
His teammate, Samuel Willard, then intercepted Mouloukou Diabate's pass and that led to Arturs Berzins' three-ball, which cut Roanne's lead to 75-73.
Ventspils fouled Rashad Wright and he sank a pair to put the lead back to four with seven seconds left.
After the Latvian team called a timeout, Young buried a three-pointer to cut the deficit to one.
Ventspils called another timeout and then fouled Diabate, who sank two free-throws for a three-point advantage.
Roanne fouled Todd Abernethy so he couldn't attempt a potential game-tying three-pointer and he made the first, but missed the second.
|Eight points down with 23 seconds remaining? No problem for Ventspils and Ronalds Zakis|
However, Ronalds Zakis got the rebound and scored at the buzzer to tie the game and force overtime.
Once in the extra period, Abernethy sank a couple of free-throws with three seconds left to clinch a 94-92 victory.
An animated Zakis said after the win, which put Ventspils into the Quarter-Final round: "We believed, the fans believed, and we made it."
Roanne are, perhaps, the luckiest of teams because they still made it to the Quarter-Finals thanks to another crazy finish in Holland where EWE Baskets Oldenburg were outscored 24-15 at ZZ Leiden in the fourth quarter and fell 76-71.
Leiden had no chance of advancing, but they played their hearts out.
"There was nothing to win for us anymore, but we want to win every game we play," coach Toon van Helfteren said.
SZOLNOKI, CHALON PROGRESS
Not to be outdone was Group J, where Szolnoki Olaj scraped a 96-94 home triumph against Telekom Baskets Bonn.
That gave the Hungarians a spot in the Quarter-Finals and clinched a place for Elan Chalon, too.
Because of Szolnoki's win, Chalon sealed first place.
Learning of that result, they took their foot off the pedal at Generali Okapi Aalstar and fell, 84-64.
"My team knew at halftime that Bonn had lost against Szolnoki and that we were qualified for the Quarter-Finals," Chalon coach Gregor Beugnot said.
"We continued the game without pressure.
"It was important to stay fresh and healthy for the next important game in the French competition against Dijon."
All four teams in Group J finished with 3-3 records.
Chalon will take on Roanne in the next phase of the competition and have home-court advantage in the best-of-three series.
The Quarter-Finals get underway on 13 March.
Quarter-Final match-ups: Ventspils v Szolnoki Olaj, Elan Chalon v Chorale Roanne, Mad-Croc Fuenlabrada v Triumph Lyubertsy, Artland Dragons v Besiktas Milangaz.