|31 March 2014|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Szolnoki Olaj played withouth one of their top performers, Peter Lorant, who sat out with an Achilles injury|
Two of the four EuroChallenge semi-finalists, Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia and Szolnoki Olaj, were in action at the weekend and both suffered defeats on the road.
On the final day of the ABA Adriatic league regular season, Szolnok lost 73-67 away at Krka Novo Mesto, the Slovenian champions that missed out on the EuroChallenge play-offs precisely because of Reggio Emilia.
The outcome of the fourth game this season between Krka and Szolnok (two in the EuroChallenge and two in the Adriatic league) was of no real consequence to either team, as Red Star (Crvena Zvezda) Belgrade, Cedevita Zagreb, Cibona Zagreb and Partizan Belgrade had already clinched the Final Four berths of the competition.
None the less, both Szolnok and Krka wanted to finish their Adriatic league campaign on a high note before turning their attention fully to the Slovenian and Hungarian domestic leagues, respectively.
Despite playing without the sidelined through an Achilles heel injury Peter Lorant, Szolnok surprised their hosts early on and jumped to a 26-18 lead at the first buzzer.
With their defence preventing Krka from scoring easy baskets in transition, the Hungarian guests extended the gap to 48-32 by half-time and looked set to celebrate a morale-boosting victory on the road.
The game took a radical turn after the interval though, as Krka finally found some offensive rhythm and started chipping away at the difference, reducing the deficit to 59-52 at the end of the third frame.
With Szolnok now struggling enormously on the offensive end, the hosts tied the scores at 61 on a Jasmin Hukic jumper midway through the final quarter and two back-to-back triples by Hukic and Matej Rojc gave them a six-point cushion, 69-63, with three minutes left on the clock.
Szolnok had no response in the final minutes and Krka clinched the 73-67 win which enabled them to finish in seventh place in the final standings, with a 12-14 record, while Szolnok finished in 12th spot, at 8-18.
Hukic paved the way for the winners with a game-high 17 points and Jaka Klobucar collected 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
For Szolnok, Justin Holiday had 16 points, Akos Kelles added 15 and Strahinja Milosevic finished with 12 points and a team-high six boards in defeat.
"It was a strange game," Szolnok head coach Dragan Aleksic commented afterwards.
"We were confident and played superbly well in the first half.
"But after the break the home team started playing more aggressively and we made a lot of mistakes, so they deserved to win."
|James White scored 27 points for Reggio Emilia in a losing effort|
While Szolnok could afford to be philosophical about their loss, Reggio Emilia were left pondering once again why they are unable to perform on the road as they do at home.
Reggiana travelled on Sunday to Vanoli Cremona, who are third from bottom in the Italian Serie A standings, and almost switched off on defence in the two middle quarters of the encounter.
While the two teams were tied at 24 at the end of the first frame, the guests gave up 28 points in the second and 31 in the third and were left with a mountain to climb, as they entered the final period trailing 83-70 and Cremona increased the gap to 88-72 at the start of the fourth.
With time running out, Rimantas Kaukenas and Troy Bell took it upon themselves to awaken the visiting troops and sunk three three-pointers between them in quick succession to instigate an amazing 22-6 burst by the hosts, within just seven minutes.
Kaukenas, with a lay-up, tied the scores at 94 when there were only 19 seconds remaining, but Reggio Emilia fouled Donatas Zavackas on the last possession and the Lithuanian hit both free throws to give Cremona a 96-94 victory.
Reggio Emilia have now dropped to 12-13 on the Serie A table but remain firmly in the play-off race since they maintain seventh spot.
The Italians are taking on Royal Hali Gaziantep in the EuroChallenge Final Four, while Szolnok will go up against Triumph Lyubertsy in the other semi-final.