EuroChallenge Last 16 Week 4 concluded on Wednesday and left a much clearer picture of the race for the quarter-final play-offs in two of the four groups.
|Omar Thomas had one of his best games this season against Norrköping, finishing with 17 points, four rebounds and four assists |
TWO PLACES RESERVED
Krasnye Krylia and EWE Baskets Oldenburg extended their winning streak in the EuroChallenge to 10 games, winning their fourth in a row in the Last 16, to punch their ticket to the quarter-final play-offs with two weeks to spare.
They both achieved their aim after clinching wins on the road and against opponents that were in much need of a success.
In Group K, the Russian side started strong against Norrköping Dolphins and made clear right from tip-off that they were in Sweden on business and not to see the sights.
Krasnye Krylia established a 16-point lead already at half-time and despite an enormous effort by the hosts in the third quarter, in which they managed to keep the group leaders to just 14 points, the Samara outfit were never really threatened and rode out 93-68 comfortable winners.
Norrköping head coach Paul Burke summed up the story of the game, and the group in a way: "There is a reason why [Krasnye Krylia] have not lost a game yet; They've got depth, size and quality all around. It is tough to play a team like this," he said.
Power forward Andre Smith led the Russian charge with 21 points and six rebounds while Chester Simmons shot 73 percent from the field and finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists for the winners.
In Group L meanwhile, Oldenburg had a far more bumpy ride in Belarus, as they took a comfy 12-point lead over Tsmoki Minsk towards the end of the third quarter but saw the resilient hosts clipping it to just two points within three minutes into the final frame.
Gutsy Minsk breathed down the neck of their visitors until seconds before the final buzzer, but ultimately Oldenburg's experience in handling tight situations like this allowed them to hold on for a 72-66 victory and secure their spot in the quarter-finals.
GAME OVER FOR HOLON
Hapoel Holon slumped to a fourth consecutive defeat in Group J and became the first team to get knocked out of the race for the quarter-finals, in quite unceremonious fashion.
The Israeli side demonstrated they were fully aware of the must-win character of their home clash against Paris Levallois and rose to the occasion, with no less than three of their players (Franklin Hassell, Jerome Dyson and Lawrence Hill) delivering performances rated among the 16 best individual displays anywhere in the EuroChallenge this week.
But this great performance came in the wrong game, as Paris came from behind and were simply outstanding for three quarters, shooting the lights out (65 percent from two-point range despite a bad first quarter) to clinch an 101-84 win and bury the hopes of their hosts.
The Parisians were so good in Israel that seven of their players scored in double digits. French international Antoine Diot led the pack with an all-round showing of 14 points, four rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.
|Kyle Shiloh and his Medias teammates upset group leaders Pinar Karsiyaka|
NOT ALL VICTORIES ARE EQUAL
There is no confusion about what Group I leaders Pinar Karsiyaka's plans for their trip to Romania to face Gaz Metan Medias were: Get in, take a fourth straight win, thank the hosts for the hospitality, punch ticket to the quarter-finals, back home for dinner.
Medias though had plans of their own, and produced the biggest upset of the Last 16 so far, by handing the Turkish side their first defeat in this stage of the competition, 77-69.
The one obvious way to pull off such a feat would be to play the perfect game for 40 minutes, but the Romanians did it a bit differently, albeit just as effectively.
The hosts had their best 20 minutes this season during the first half of the encounter, while at the same time forcing Karsiyaka to play their 20 worse, to take an 11-point lead at the interval.
Karsiyaka, who had given up an uncharacteristically high 45 points in the first half to Medias, remembered they were the best defensive team in the competition and came back from the break to demonstrate it, but the hosts showed determination and wit to manage the lead until the end and clinch a famous victory that lifted them to 2-2 in the group standings.
The Latvians prevailed 75-61 in the Tuesday clash between the two teams and improved to 2-2 on the table.
A Karsiyaka win would have given them a clear advantage for second place over both the Romanians and the Finns, but now they have a much better shot at first place, if they play their cards right, while at the same time they run a higher risk on missing out even on second spot.
Kataja on the other hand are now left with no other option but to win both their remaining games and hope that results elsewhere go their way.
|Aldo Curti scored 12 of his 14 points in the final quarter to spark Gravelines' victory over Szolnoki Olaj|
ONE FOR YOU, ONE FOR ME
In addition to the very evident do-or-die games, there can also be do-or-get-in-trouble games in a round-robin group.
The French league leaders achieved the first aim in these situations, namely win the game against Szolnoki Olaj, so that they go one better than the Hungarian side in the Group J standings, 3-1 to Szolnoki's 2-2.
The French have a better goal average overall and if they preserve it they could have the edge over Szolnoki in case this scenario materialises, but on Tuesday night they were certainly delighted just to get the win, as it could have easily gone terribly wrong for them.
The lead changed hands 10 times in the game and Szolnoki pulled away 62-53 with 1:17 left in the third quarter, so it took a huge fourth quarter by BCM just to secure victory.
Khimik meanwhile went the extra mile in Group K by not only defeating Tofas Bursa, but also covering the three-point handicap from the reverse fixture, with a 69-62 win over the Turkish outfit on Tuesday.
The Ukrainian side actually started off so well that they took a 13-point lead at the interval, thanks to a monstrous defensive effort that held Tofas to just 23 points in the first half.
The Turkish team reacted in the second half to reduce the gap somewhat, but did not have enough left in the tank to turn the tables.
Shooting guard Devoe Joseph led the way for Khimik with his 18 points, six rebounds and two assists.