|18 December 2013|
|Sharaud Curry scored a season-high 38 points to lift Team TEHO Sport into the Last 16 |
The final six tickets to the EuroChallege Last 16 met their rightful owners on Tuesday as action in the Regular Season of the competition came to a close.
Port of Antwerp Giants and JDA Dijon in Group A, Tartu University Rock and BK Ventspils in Group C, Team TEHO Sport Kotka in Group E along with KRKA Novo Mesto in Group F all prevailed in do-or-die games to qualify to the next phase.
The EuroChallenge Last 16 gets under way on 14 January but before that, we take a look at some of the important highlights of the final week of the Regular Season.
Hitting The Headlines:
If any player, member of staff or fan of Team TEHO Sport Kotka play the lottery this Christmas, they should really bet everything on the number 3.
In order to advance to the EuroChallenge Last 16 from Group E, the Finnish side needed to beat Okapi Aalstar on the road by a three-point margin and they did just that, throwing in a healthy dosage of nail-biting drama for good measure.
Kotka rallied in the fourth to overturn a 78-70 deficit and Ryan Mc Dade split two free throws 16 seconds from the final buzzer to give them their biggest lead all night, 90-84.
Thomas Dreesen drilled a triple to reduce to 90-87, Okapi called a time-out and Arne Steinbach came on for Dreesen.
The young Belgian guard stole the ball with four seconds left, but his desperation three-point attempt fell short and Kotka celebrated the big win that secured them a spot in the Last 16.
Blast From The Past:
"At the end we had a smart, experienced player in Sani Becirovic who closed the game, and that's the reason why we brought him in the team," said Krka Novo Mesto head coach Aleksandar Dzikic after his team clinched a 71-61 win over Tofas Bursa to beat the Turkish side to the last spot in the Last 16 from Group F.
Tofas unleashed a furious assault in the fourth to reduce a 12-point deficit to just four points when Becirovic decided it was time to take matters into his own hands.
The veteran Slovenian guard first drilled a jumper, dished out an assist to Christopher Booker for an easy lay-up on the next possession and finally restored a 7-point lead for Krka 54 seconds from the final buzzer by sinking four free throws in quick succession.
When the chips were down on Tuesday night, the flight which brought the 32-year-old former Slovenian international back from Iran must have looked like the reindeer sleigh of Santa Claus to Dzikic and everyone else at Krka.
|19-year-old Naim El Khounchar has enjoyed some big minutes as of late, showcasing his potential|
Keep An Eye On:
Naim El Khounchar came up with a personal season-high 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals against Team TEHO Sport and although his performance was not enough to help Okapi Aalstar continue in the EuroChallenge, the international stage has not seen the last of this 19-year-old point guard.
Some other promising youngsters that on Tuesday played their last European game this season were the three Tofas Bursa players that were members of Turkey's U20 national team last summer.
Ugur Dokuyan, Ramazan Tekin and Samet Geyik all saw plenty of action in the EuroChallenge Regular Season, with Geyik playing just over 13 minutes on average and posting 3.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
"It's a shame that we didn't stay in the EuroChallenge because we have some younger players that obtained experience from playing in a European competition," said Tofas Bursa head coach Ahmet Caki after his team's loss to Krka.
Stat Of The Week:
"We had a great opportunity to advance to the Last 16 but Kotka had an extremely good Curry on their team," Okapi Aalstar head coach Brad Dean said after Sharaud Curry dropped 38 points on 13-of-18 from the floor to lift Kotka past the Belgian side.
The 26-year-old point guard added six rebounds and three assists to round up his performance.
Although it is hard to argue against Curry's competition-high 38 points, BC Kyiv earned a mention in the stat of the week category by hitting 16 three-pointers against Körmend, to tie Pinar Karsiyaka's record from last year's edition of the EuroChallenge.
Unfortunately for the Ukrainian club, this stellar performance came too late as they had already been eliminated prior to their 102-64 win on Tuesday.
Quote Of The Week:
"I told my players that a game in the EuroChallenge must always be an honour and these games remain important international highlights of their careers, and fortunately we were able to get the win," said CSM Oradea head coach Cristian Achim after his team's hard-fought 73-71 win over Group B winners Royal Hali Gaziantep, in what was the Romanian side's farewell game in this season's EuroChallenge.