BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Dmitry Kulagin is having a prosperous return to his former club Triumph, with 12 points, seven boards and five assists on the weekend|
With just over a week remaining to the start of the EuroChallenge Regular Season, Group D participants Triumph Lyubertsy and BC Kyiv picked up their first victories in league action on Sunday.
Triumph tasted their first success in the VTB United League, defeating fellow Russian side Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd 88-80 at home to improve their record to 2-1.
On the same day, Kyiv got acquainted with the sweet taste of triumph in their fifth game in the Ukrainian Superleague this season, by means of winning 72-63 over Cherkasy Mavpy, also at home.
In Lyubertsy on Sunday, Triumph looked at their best during the first and third quarters of the clash, when they controlled the fast-paced tempo of their opponents and dominated both ends of the floor.
Triumph jumped to a double-digit lead, 23-13, but the Volgograd side reduced the gap to 39-37 by the half-time buzzer.
Krasny Oktyabr tied the scores at 43 shortly after the break but Jeremy Chappell scored seven points in quick succession to spark a 13-0 run for Vasily Karasev's team and Triumph pulled away, leading by as many as 16 points late in the third quarter.
The hosts managed to hold on relatively comfortably until the final buzzer to celebrate their maiden victory this season.
The latest addition to Triumph's roster, Cory Higgins, led all scorers with 27 points but the top performer was Chappell, who registered an efficiency index rating of 30 by collecting 25 points on 9-for-11 from the floor, seven rebounds and two assists.
Serbian big man Milovan Rakovic went 8-for-11 from the floor and picked up 17 points and eight boards, while young Russian guard Dmitriy Kulagin was also instrumental in Triumph's victory with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Meanwhile in the Ukrainian capital, there was little early on to suggest that Kyiv would finally snap their four-game losing streak, as they found themselves trailing Cherkasy 20-12 at the first buzzer.
|Titus Nicoara (right) led Oradea on the weekend with 24 points and 14 rebounds|
Vladyslav Podolyan sunk a triple with 6:09 remaining in the second to give the hosts their first lead, 23-22, but Kyiv went to the locker-rooms at half-time still trailing their guests, albeit just by one point, 36-35.
Cherkasy seemed to be pulling away early in the third but point guard Lee Humphrey hit two back-to-back three-pointers to level the scores and inject into Kyiv some much-needed confidence.
Young Ukrainian international Vyacheslav Bobrov scored with a lay-up to cap-off a 10-0 Kyiv run that enabled them to jump ahead 47-44 with 3:10 left to play in the third quarter and with their shooting percentages now soaring, the hosts would never look back.
Forward Michael Davis went 9-for-11 from the floor and paved the way for the hosts with 25 points, Podolyan was four-for-six from three-point range and finished with 16 points, Humphrey added 11 points while Bobrov collected a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Interestingly, the other two teams that were drawn in EuroChallege Group D, Inkognito Fashion Körmend BC and CS Gaz Metan Medias, both lost at the weekend.
Medias were on the wrong end of a dramatic finale in their Romanian LNB League clash on the road with CSM Oradea, a side that also competes in the EuroChallenge.
The two teams had been close for the entire 40 minutes but Willie Kemp gave Medias a 76-75 lead with 16 seconds left on the clock, only for Oradea to clinch a 77-76 triumph after their point guard William Franklin made a lay-up three seconds from the final buzzer.
Romanian international Titus Nicoara, a former Medias player, led Oradea with a fantastic double-double display of 24 points and 14 rebounds, while Kemp finished with 18 points and Rares Mandache had 16 points for Medias in the losing effort.
Meanwhile Körmend, who are travelling to Lyubersty to take on Triumph in their EuroChallenge opener, fell 74-66 away at Sopron in Hungarian league action, despite a double-double effort of 21 points and 11 rebounds by pivot Zarko Rakocevic.
Körmend now stand at 2-3 and are in seventh place in the Hungarian first division standings.