|04 December 2013|
|"We have finally showed what we are made of, also on the road" - Ojars Silins |
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia will remember Tuesday 3 December as a turning point in their 2013/14 season, and not only because it was the day they made a decisive step towards the EuroChallenge Last 16.
Following their 78-71 victory at Okapi Aalstar, the Italian side have climbed to the top of the Group E standings with a 3-1 record and will seal their passage to the next phase of the competition if they manage to beat Team TEHO Sport Kotka next week.
Most importantly however, they have finally earned their first success on the road since the start of their campaign, after 12 games across the EuroChallenge and the domestic Serie A league.
"We have finally showed what we are made of, also on the road," Reggio Emila forward Ojars Silins commented after the Tuesday win.
The young Latvian, who scored five consecutive points in the clutch to help his side push back Aalstar's comeback attempt, could not have encapsulated better the feeling of relief among his teammates.
Up until Tuesday, fans and media in Italy were commenting that Reggio Emilia seem to be following a perpetual win-one, lose-one pattern.
They had defeated every single team that visited PalaBigi, including reigning Italian champions Montepaschi Siena and Virtus Bologna in the regional derby, but lost every single game away from their home court.
In their home games, Reggio Emilia's biggest virtue, their steely defence, shines through: They allow their visitors to score only 62.5 points on average in the Serie A, and an even more stingy 62 points-per-game in the EuroChallenge.
For the first time this season, this rock-solid defence made its appearance in an away game on Tuesday as they only gave up 50 points to Okapi during the first 32 minutes of the clash.
"More than a necessity, beating Okapi on the road is a desire," Reggio Emilia head coach Massimiliano Menetti had told local daily Gazzetta di Reggio as his team were about to depart for Belgium.
"The Belgian League is very competitive, I showed to my players what Mons did to Roma last week."
Belfius Mons Hainaut had defeated Virtus Roma 61-60 in Eurocup action prior to Reggiana's visit to Aalst and Menetti, who places enormous emphasis on the psychological aspect, wanted to make sure his team would be up to the challenge.
In the absence of captain Michele Antonutti, who picked up a muscle injury and stayed home to undergo treatment, point guard Andrea Cinciarini was named captain in the game against Okapi.
"This is in theory Andrea's first European game on the road, but in practice he got plenty of international experience with the national team at the EuroBasket, which can help us a lot," Menetti said.
The Italian international stepped up and fulfilled his role as a leader in Aalst, staying on the floor for 36 minutes and contributing 13 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Reggiana's next game is again on the road, as they travel to Sardinia on Sunday to take on Sassari in Serie A action, with Antonutti a game-time decision.