BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Chester Simmons was the top scorer for Krasnye Krylia in both the semi-final and the final of the Russian Cup|
Krasnye Krylia have successfully defended their Russian Cup title with a hard-fought 86-80 victory over Spartak St. Petersburg in Vladivostok on Wednesday.
Following their second consecutive success in the competition since it has been organised by the Russian Basketball Federation in its current format, the Samara club are now tied with UNICS Kazan with two titles each.
CSKA Moscow have conquered the trophy on four occasions and remain in first place as the most decorated club in the Russian Cup.
Both Krasnye Krylia and Spartak showed right from tip-off in Wednesday's final that they were well prepared mentally and physically to rise to the occasion of the Final Four title game.
After a back-and-forth first half in which the lead changed hands almost constantly, the Samara team reached the half-time interval holding a slim 45-42 lead.
Spartak regained the lead almost immediately after returning from the locker rooms but, inspired by young Russian international Nikita Balashov, Krasnye Krylia went on their biggest run in the game to go up 58-48.
In an encounter of this nature though, a double-digit margin was always going to prove short-lived.
Spartak replied with a 10-2 run of their own and Greek international Loukas Mavrokefalidis sunk two free throws to tie the scores at 60; as if that was not enough, Zackary Wright hit a buzzer-beater to bring the St. Petersburg side up again, 65-63 at the end of the third quarter.
In the clutch however, the Samara side brought out the big guns; Chester Simmons scored consecutive baskets to bring them up, 75-70, and although Spartak went level once again, 75-75, the American small forward and shooting guard Evgeny Kolesnikov hit big shots to make it 81-76.
With less than half a minute left on the clock, Simmons sunk two free throws for Krasnye Krylia to take an 83-80 lead and after Spartak wasted the next possession, Kolesnikov sealed the win with two more shots from the foul line.
Simmons followed up on his outstanding 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in Tuesday's semi-final with another superb performance in the title game, as he led all scorers with 26 points on 5-for-8 from two-point range and 3-for-6 from behind the three-point arc, and added four rebounds.
Balashov finished with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the floor while Kolesnikov and Aaron Miles contributed 11 points apiece.
Miles was also named the MVP of the Final Four for his performances in the final and semi-final against Spartak Primorye.
Krasnye Krylia will compete in the EuroChallenge Final Four and will be afforded a shot at a second title within the space of 11 days, if they prevail over BCM Gravelines Dunkerque in the semi-finals on 26 April.