BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
The first weekend of October marked the start of a number of national leagues around Europe and saw several of the clubs that will compete in the upcoming EuroChallenge playing their first official game in the 2013/14 season.
CHOLET, ZZ LEIDEN PREVAIL IN EUROCHALLENGE DERBIES
|Worthy De Jong added 14 points in ZZ Leiden's solid start into the season|
The opening day of the new season in both the French Pro A and the Dutch Basketball League (formerly Eredivisie) featured clashes between EuroChallege participants.
In France, Cholet Basket kicked off the new season with an 85-75 win over JDA Dijon at home while Zorg en Zekerheid Leiden prevailed 69-63 over Gas Terra Flames Groningen, also in front of their home crowd.
An explosive second quarter enabled Dijon to grab a 41-39 lead at half-time over Cholet on the road but the hosts improved enormously on defence after the break and held their guests to just 11 points in the third period to jump ahead 62-52 going into the final frame.
Cholet held on to that double-digit cushion until the final buzzer to secure victory in the season opener behind a game-high 27 points from point guard Terrell Stoglin, 17 points from EuroChallenge champion (with Krasnye Krylia) Lamayn Wilson and an all-round display by former Paris Levallois player John Cox, who collected 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds and five assists.
Andre Harris finished with 24 points and T.J. Campbell picked up 15 points and seven assists for Dijon in losing efforts.
"We knew this was an important game for our team and for the city and I feel we made a statement tonight, that we are ready for the year ahead," Stoglin said.
In the Netherlands meanwhile, Leiden outscored Groningen 20-9 during the second quarter to take a 15-point lead at the half-time interval and then held on in the second half to claim the win in the opening game of the season.
Dutch international Sean Cunningham paved the way for Leiden, as he sunk all five of his shots from two-point range to collect 21 points and added six rebounds and two assists; Worthy de Jong and Michael Schachtner chipped in with 14 points apiece for the winners.
Cashmere Wright meanwhile finished with 19 points and six rebounds and Jason Dourisseau added 15 points for Groningen in defeat.
The third Dutch club to participate in the EuroChallenge this season, SPM Shoeters Den Bosch, commence their domestic campaign on Tuesday, at home to Weert.
KRKA SHOW EARLY PROMISE
|Still young but already an experienced leader: Krka captain Edo Muric|
Krka Novo Mesto survived a nerve-wrecking encounter at home with Montenegrin side Budućnost VOLI Podgorica on Saturday night to commence victorious their ABA Adriatic League campaign, 60-57.
Podgorica were leading 57-54 with less than two minutes left on the clock but Edo Muric and Christopher Booker scored crucial baskets in the dying seconds to lead the Slovenian team to a morale-boosting win in the opener.
Point guard Malcolm Ray Armstead paved the way for Krka with 21 points and seven assists and Muric chipped in with 10 points and five rebounds.
The Slovenian international has been named captain of the team and received praise from his coach, Aleksandar Dzikic, after the game.
"We have some players for whom this year is the first experience of playing at this level, which is why we should expect more games like this in the future," Dzikic said.
"It was expected Muric will take the initiative, as the ups and downs are also to be expected.
"We have a lot of work in front of us, we want to create a team which nobody would want to play against."
Also in the Adriatic League, Szolnoki Olaj travelled to Croatia for their season opener and found themselves trailing Zadar by double digits in the second quarter and by as many as 16 points in the third.
The Hungarian side did not manage to turn the tables around despite a comeback attempt late in the game and fell 71-67 to their hosts.
Shooting guard Willie Warren collected 19 points and Hungarian international Peter Lorant finished with 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds in losing efforts.
AALST OFF TO FLYING START IN BELGIUM
Okapi Aalstar had hinted at their intentions to kick off the new season in convincing fashion last week, when they prevailed 73-60 over Eurocup side Telenet BC Oostende to clinch the Belgian Supercup title.
The Aalst outfit looked even more impressive however at the weekend as they travelled to Charleroi and delivered a dominant second-half performance to defeat Belgacom Spirou 80-62 in the opening game of the two title contenders in the Ethias League.
Derek Raivio led the winners with 26 points and Travis Releford contributed 16 points and six rebounds.
Fellow EuroChallenge side Port of Antwerp Giants meanwhile also started their domestic season this weekend with a game on the road, but fell 71-65 to Liege Basket, despite a solid start that saw them take the early lead in the encounter.
Frank Turner had 15 points and five assists for Antwerp in defeat.