|24 October 2013|
| Dennis Donkor came up with a big four-point play at a crucial moment for the Antwerp Giants|
Port of Antwerp Giants came up with their best defensive display on Wednesday to defeat the Leuven Bears 79-60 at home and join fellow EuroChallenge side Okapi Aalstar at the top of the Belgian Ethias League standings.
The joint leaders of the Ethias League stand at 3-1 after the first four games in the new season.
Antwerp, who had lost 71-65 in their season opener at Liege, have gone from strength-to-strength in the past three weeks.
They claimed their first win against reigning Belgian champions Telenet BC Oostende, 70-63 at home, then went on to thrash Kangoeroes Basket Willebroek 103-65 on the road and extended their winning streak to three games with the win against Leuven Bears.
On Wednesday, the Giants scored the first eight points in the game and reached their first double-digit lead with three minutes left to play in the first quarter.
The Bears reduced the gap to 31-23 midway through the second frame but two three-pointers by Belgian international Maxime De Zeeuw and a fantastic four-point play by Dennis Donkor made for a 10-0 Antwerp run that sent the home team to the locker rooms with an 18-point cushion, 45-27.
The Giants kept pushing hard after the break and increased the lead to 24 points, 70-46, on a Yannick Driesen lay-up shortly before the end of the third.
The gap ballooned to 79-52 with four minutes left on the clock but the hosts went without a basket until the final buzzer, allowing their guests to reduce to 19 points at the end.
De Zeeuw paved the way for Antwerp with 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the floor and seven rebounds, while Barry Stewart and Marko Spica chipped in with 12 points apiece.
Okapi Aalstar had gone alone at the top of the table on Tuesday, after delivering a dominant performance in the two middle quarters of their home clash with Liege, to clinch an 81-60 win.
The Aalst side started off looking rather rusty and Liege took advantage to jump to a 21-17 lead at the first buzzer.
A 13-2 burst within the opening minutes of the second frame however enabled the hosts to seize control of proceedings and the half-time buzzer found them leading 38-29.
Okapi picked up after the break where they had left off and Christopher Young ignited an 11-0 run at the start of the third for the gap to reach 20 points, 49-29, for the first time on the night.
The hosts went up 65-40 at the end of the third quarter and there was nothing Liege could do in the final frame to turn the game around.
Ian Hanavan put in his best performance for Okapi so far this season and led all scorers with 15 points while Lee Cummard and Derek Raivio scored 13 points each, the former also picking up a game-high nine rebounds.
Okapi were drawn in EuroChallenge Round Group E, together with GasTerra Flames Groningen, Team TEHO Sport Kotka and Reggio Emilia.
Meanwhile Antwerp were drawn in Group A and one of their opponents in that pool, SPM Shoeters Den Bosch, was in action in the Dutch Basketball League on Wednesday night.
Den Bosch suffered their first defeat this season, 77-75 away at Zwolle, in a nail-biting direct clash between the only two previously undefeated sides in the Dutch Eredivisie.
Tony Johnson of Den Bosch fired the last shot of the game in an effort to tie the scores but the ball bounced off the rim right before the final buzzer and the guests could not force overtime.
Tai Wesley finished with 21 points and seven rebounds while Kees Akerboom had 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals for Den Bosch in losing efforts.
One of the other two Dutch teams that will compete in the EuroChallenge this season, ZZ Leiden, were also in domestic league action on Wednesday and also slumped to a narrow defeat on the road.
Leiden lost 75-73 at Wijchen despite a game-high 19 points from Dutch international Worthy de Jong, who also grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists.
Den Bosch now stand at 4-1 in the league standings while Leiden have dropped to 2-3.
The EuroChallenge 2014 Regular Season tips off on 5 November for Antwerp, Okapi and Den Bosch and on 6 November for Leiden, who are playing hosts to Denmark's Bakken Bears Aarhus in their opening game in Group G.