|Andrea Cinciarini paved the way for Reggio Emilia with a 17-point, 11-assist double-double|
Three days before their opening game in the EuroChallenge Last 16, Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia thumped Sidigas Avellino 96-73 at home to triumphantly punch their ticket to the Italian Cup BEKO Final Eight 2014.
This was exactly the outcome the capacity crowd at PalaBigi arena was hoping for as they unrolled a giant banner reading 'We Have A Dream' during warm-up, but not even the most optimistic Reggio Emilia fan expected it to materialise in this spectacular fashion.
There were still two minutes left in first quarter when Andrea Cinciarini split the Avellino defence and made it 27-7 with a lay-up, sparking chants of 'We Are All Going To Milano' by the 3,500 local fans in the stands.
"Tonight the push the fans gave us to achieve this goal was visible, I think the whole city wanted us to make it to Milano (where the Final Eight tournament will be held)," Reggio Emilia head coach Massimiliano Menetti commented afterwards.
Reggio Emilia continued their ferocious charge and led 32-8 at the end of the first period, extended their cushion to 61-33 by the half-time break and could afford to slow down and just preserve their advantage throughout the second half and until the final buzzer.
Cinciarini masterminded his team's most impressive display so far this season by collecting a double-double of a game-high 17 points and 11 assists and adding seven rebounds.
In addition to the Italian international, Reggio Emilia had four more players scoring in double digits.
"Reaching the Final Eight for the second year in a row is a big achievement for Reggio Emilia, a recognition of the work we do," Menetti said.
"We are both proud and happy.
"It was a very important game on many levels, also in view of the play-offs, and we have managed to maintain an unbeaten record at home throughout the entire first round of the regular season [in the Serie A].
"We are still growing, I particularly liked how committed we were tonight, everyone on our team makes a contribution and helps to get the win."
Reggio Emilia concluded the first round of games in seventh place on an 8-7 record and in the quarter-finals of the Final Eight they will face Cantù, which beat Granarolo Bologna 78-69 on Sunday to climb to second spot in the standings.
In the rest of the match-ups, Serie A leaders Enel Brindisi will take on Umana Venezia, Emporio Armani Milano will take on Banco di Sardegna Sassari and Montepaschi Siena will face off with Roma.
On Tuesday, Reggio Emilia are playing host to Szolnoki Olaj in the premiere of Group J in the EuroChallenge Last 16.
|Dejan Borovnjak contributed 21 points and nine rebounds in Gaziantep's win over Tofas Bursa|
TURKISH BEKO TBL
Royal Hali Gaziantep clinched a third victory in a row at the weekend, their longest winning streak in this season's BEKO TBL. Gaziantep prevailed 85-68 over Tofas Bursa at home thanks to a strong final quarter, in which they outscored their guests 22-6. New signing Baris Ermis made an instant impact in his first game with Gaziantep, as he picked up a game-high 22 points and dished out six assists. Big man Dejan Borovnjak was also key in the hosts' win, collecting a near double-double of 21 points and nine rebounds.
LATVIAN ALDARIS LBL
BK Ventspils stormed past Saldus 97-60 on Saturday to register their 12th win in 13 games in their domestic league. Janis Timma, with 13 points and six rebounds, led five Ventspils players in double digits.
BBL BALTIC LEAGUE
Tartu University Rock enjoyed an 88-62 rout of Caspiy at home, on the back of a 25-point display by Vincent Simpson and 16 points from Estonian international Janar Talts. Tartu improved to 6-4 in Group C of the Regular Season with the win.
Gaz Metan Medias returned to domestic action after a 20-day break on a high note as they defeated Craiova, a direct rival for a spot in the play-offs, 97-88 at home after overtime. The two teams went neck-and-neck throughout the game and inevitably the end of regulation found them tied at 84, but Medias pulled away decisively in overtime. Forward Giorgos Tsiaras paved the way with 26 points, six rebounds and four assists and Willie Kemp finished with 21 points.
FRENCH PRO A
JDA Dijon now have to share the top of the Pro A table with three more teams at 10-5, as they struggled offensively away at Strasbourg and lost 68-54. Andre Harris and Mykal Riley were the only Dijon players to score in double digits, picking up 13 points apiece. Cholet meanwhile stood no chance in their clash on the road with Nancy, as they were already trailing their hosts by 21 points at half-time and by as many as 32 points in the third quarter, to eventually lose 86-60. Lamayn Wilson had 16 points and five rebounds for Cholet in defeat.
ABA ADRIATIC LEAGUE
Szolnoki Olaj lost 64-63 to Cibona at home, in an encounter whose dramatic finish both sides will remember for a long time. Szolnoki led 63-55 with less than two minutes left on the clock, but Dario Saric first drilled two triples in quick succession and then stole the ball from Strahinja Milosevic. Szolnoki fouled Ivan Siriscevic, who split two free throws almost at the final buzzer to give the win to Cibona. Willie Warren had 18 points and five assists and Justin Holiday finished with 11 points for Szolnoki in losing efforts. On Sunday, Krka Novo Mesto stayed close with Partizan Belgrade during 20 minutes but after leading 45-39 at the half-time buzzer, the reigning ABA League champions pulled away in the third and Krka lost 80-67 in Belgrade. Jaka Klobucar had a game-high 21 points for Krka and Edo Muric collected 11 points in defeat.
BELGIAN ETHIAS LEAGUE
Port of Antwerp Giants have dropped out of the top four spots in the Ethias League after suffering a third consecutive defeat. On Sunday, the Giants lost 85-78 to VOO Wolves Verviers-Pepinster on the road, after giving up 31 points to their hosts in the final quarter. Ryan Pearson had 18 points on 7-for-9 from the floor and six rebounds and Roel Moors added 11 points in losing efforts.
VTB UNITED LEAGUE
Tsmoki Minsk fell 75-72 away at Lithuanian side Neptunas on Sunday, as they were unable to contain point guard Marius Runkauskas, who erupted for 40 points on an eye-popping 10-for-13 triples. Vincent Hunter had 13 points and five rebounds and Aliaksei Trastsinetski finished with 10 points for Minsk in defeat.