|Milovan Rakovic was one of five Triumph Lyubertsy players on double figures in scoring|
Triumph Lyubertsy blew a big first-half lead but then pulled clear at the end to take a crucial 80-72 road win over Ural Ekaterinburg in the first leg of their all-Russian EuroChallenge quarter-final.
Triumph led by 13 late in the second period, but the hosts came roaring back to take a brief lead of their own in the third period and then kept it close until the final minutes.
But Triumph, who had dominated inside the entire game, then hit a volley of three-pointers in the final five minutes to edge clear once more.
After Ekaterinburg started strong, Triumph took control with a 13-0 run that put them 19-14 up on Jeremy Chappell's driving lay-up.
Their lead was 38-25 when Kyle Landry nailed a three-pointer with 2:46 to go until half-time, and Ekaterinburg looked in danger of being blown out on their home court.
Lance Harris was not about to let that happen and he replied with back-to-back threes, launching a rally which continued in the third period and saw Ekaterinburg lead 51-50 when Aaron McGhee capped an 8-0 spurt with a three of his own.
Pavel Spiridonov immediately replied with a three for Triumph and the teams traded blows until early in the fourth period.
Triumph then began to make their second break, and led 68-63 when Milovan Rakovic got the tip-in from his own miss midway through the fourth period.
Ekaterinburg's offense had gone ice cold at a critical moment, and they went without scoring for almost four minutes, grateful to still be in touch at 68-65 when Anton Glazunov tipped-in his own missed free throw to score.
But now Triumph began to reel off three-pointers, with Chappell hitting from deep either side of a long ball from Landry, putting them up 77-71 with 2:36 to go.
Ekaterinburg struggled to get anything going in response, barely even able to get hold of the ball as Triumph made their dominance on the glass count.
Glazunov got one back from the free throw line with 88 seconds left, but time was fast running out and, as Ekaterinburg turned to fouls, Triumph salted the game away from the line.
Chappell led Triumph with 16 points, with Rakovic and Courdon Higgins adding 15 each. Landry and Evgeny Voronov had 13 apiece.
Harris had 27 points for Ekaterinburg, with Glazunov contributing 12 and McGhee 11.
Oleg Okulov, URAL Ekaterinburg coach:
"Triumph is a team that ranks high in VTB League and competes for the first three positions in its group. Recently they played an equal game against CSKA. The selection of players and foreign players is also important. I know Rakovic very well. When he first appeared in Russia, he came to my team (Spartak). Landry has already played a few seasons in Triumph. And the Russian players, except Voronov, have been playing for the same team for several years. Those players, who don't follow coach's instructions, cannot stay in this team. Thus, this has become a high-class team, consisting of high-class players. As for us, we lack players. We have enthusiasm, good aggression, desire to play, we demonstrated our good skills. It was enough, but during some moments we were punished for all our mistakes. Thus, the main reason of our defeat is the better class of Triumph team."
Fedor Kliuchnikov, URAL Ekaterinburg:
"We needed more good luck, maybe. We missed free throws, made a couple of silly turnovers, didn't grab rebounds. I think we could have won this game. We shouldn't make such mistakes in the next game to have a positive result. They are not the team to joke with. "
Vasiliy Karasev, BC Triumph coach:
"First of all, I am happy that two Russian teams are playing in the quarter-finals. During the whole season both teams have been demonstrating their abilities. You can win by chance one game, but if a team has reached the last eight of a competition, then chance is not the case any more. Coming here we were ready to play a hard game. I think, we didn't explain properly to our players, that it's impossible to win only by experience and good skills. It was obvious, that the Ural players' commitment, self-devotion and desire exceeded ours. Ural is a good team, and it's important to find sponsors, so that this team of the Urals, which has great basketball history, could play in VTB League. This is the region, where people love basketball, and they have a lot of spectators, and the way they support their team, is really impressive."
Evgeny Valiev, BC Triumph:
"We expected the game to be tough. If a team has reached quarter-final, it's a big deal, so we took this opponent seriously. As for the game, we made turnovers in defense, let the opponent take many rebounds and free shots, it was hard for us. And it was our fault, when in the third quarter Ural caught up with us."