|24 March 2014|
| Rimantas Kaukenas celebrated his 250th game in the Italian Serie A with a win|
Rimantas Kaukenas celebrated on Sunday night his 250th game in the Italian Serie A in the way he knows best - by putting in a stellar performance to lead Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia to victory.
The 37-year-old former Lithuanian international, who had played during six seasons in Italy with Montepaschi Siena before joining Reggio Emlia midway through the current season, had a game-high 19 points in the EuroChallenge semi-finalists' 89-79 win over Banco di Sardegna Sassari at home.
Kaukenas went three-of-five from beyond the three-point arc and added three rebounds and five assists to round out his celebratory performance.
In what was an excellent display by Reggio Emilia from start to finish, James White finished with 17 points and five boards, Michele Antonutti chipped in with 14 points and team captain Andrea Cinciarini collected a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The hosts imposed a frenetic pace right from tip-off against Sassari, who conquered the Coppa Italia title last month and jumped to a 25-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
|"We are very content because this is our fifth win in a row and it came after a week of intensive work..." - Massimiliano Menetti |
Not content with the early eight-point gap, Reggio Emilia dominated the second frame with an iron fist and extended their lead to an almost unassailable 52-31 buffer by the half-time buzzer, effectively sentencing the outcome with two entire periods still to play.
"We had five players scoring in double digits, we showed some beautiful details offensively and we were always in complete control against Sassari, with the exception of the last few minutes," commented Reggio Emilia coach Massimilano Menetti.
"We are very content because this is our fifth win in a row and it came after a week of intensive work and just a week after we received huge satisfaction (by qualifying to the EuroChallenge Final Four).
"We have struggled for consistency this season and this is the first time we have two continuous weeks of success, so we must remain vigilant and continue playing like this."
Reggio Emilia have improved to 12-12 and are currently tied with Caserta on seventh spot in the standings, with just six games remaining to the end of the regular season.
However, Umana Venezia is just one win behind them while a further three contenders stand at 10-12, hence the EuroChallenge side are absolutely not certain of having consolidated their play-off berth.
Reggio Emilia's opponents in the EuroChallenge semi-final, Royal Hali Gaziantep, are facing powerhouse Galatasaray Liv Hospital in the Turkish BEKO TBL on Monday.
| Artem Vikhrov picked up 10 points in weekend VTB action for Triumph Lyubertsy|
However, the other two EuroChallenge semi-finalists were also in action at the weekend and both suffered defeats at home.
Triumph Lyubertsy succumbed to the superiority of VTB League Group B leaders Khimki, the only team to still march unbeaten in the regular season, and lost 81-59.
Vasily Karasev's side limited their guests to just 13 points in the second quarter and were able to correct a slow start to the game and arrive at the half-time interval trailing by just three points, 33-30.
With Finnish international Petteri Koponen firing on all cylinders however en route to a game-high 20 points, Khimki pulled away in the third and extended the gap to 72-51 early in the fourth frame.
Evgeny Voronov had 12 points and eight rebounds in defeat and Artem Vikhrov was the only other Triumph player to score in double digits and collected 10 points.
Despite the loss, Triumph have already secured third place in Group B and will go up against Spartak St Petersburg in the VTB League quarter-final play-offs.
Meanwhile in Hungary, Szolnoki Olaj abolished a 35-27 first-half lead over visiting Mega Vizura and fell 66-61 in ABA Adriatic League action.
Szolnoki in effect paid the price for a catastrophic second quarter, in which they were outscored 24-9 by the Serbian team.
Strahinja Milosević had 16 points and five rebounds while David Vojvoda finished with 11 points in losing efforts for the hosts.