Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia and Szolnoki Olaj achieved at the weekend their primary targets in the regular season of the Italian Serie A and the Hungarian 1st Division, respectively.
|Péter Lóránt was the leading scorer for Szolnoki Olaj.|
Szolnoki clinched the top spot in the second stage of their domestic league competition and will face Kormend in the play-off quarter-finals.
In order to ensure home-court advantage until the end of the post-season, Szolnoki had to travel to Atomeromu at the weekend and fend off the challenge of their direct contenders in battle for first place in the standings.
Szolnoki got off to a rusty start on the offensive end and found themselves trailing 18-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Akos Keller however hit a triple and a long-range jumper in successive possessions midway through the second quarter to bring the guests ahead, 26-25, while Obie Trotter converted an and-one play right before the half-time buzzer to extend their lead to 33-28.
Szolnoki continued to pull away after the break and Peter Lorant sunk a three-pointer that sparked an 8-0 run for the guests and gave them a 62-48 cushion shortly after the start of the final frame.
Atomeromu refused to give up and unleashed a last-gasp assault which enabled them to come within three points, 70-67, going into the final minute but Justin Holiday with Strahinja Milosevic maintained their calm at the stripe and combined for the last six points of the encounter to seal Szolnoki's win.
Holiday and Lorant paved the way for Szolnoki with 14 points each, as the former also brought down 11 boards to complete a double-double, while Keller finished with 13 points and Milosevic with 12.
"We were glad to see how many of our fans travelled with us to support us," said Szolnoki head coach Dragan Aleksic.
"It was important for us to get the win today and first place ahead of the play-offs."
Reggio Emilia meanwhile have secured a play-off berth in the Serie A play-offs, although their final position will only be decided after the final round of games in the regular season, next weekend.
The Italian EuroChallenge champions registered an 83-68 victory over third-placed Acqua Vitasnella Cantù at the weekend, in what was their first game at home after the triumphant Bologna Final Four.
Playing in front of their home crowd, Reggio outscored their guests 19-9 in the second quarter to grab a 38-29 lead by the half-time buzzer and never looked back, as they shot 65.9% from two-point range while at the same time they forced their guests to shoot only 38.9% for two.
Once again James White led the way for Reggio with a game-high 23 points, Final Four MVP Andrea Cinciarini finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Rimantas Kaukenas added 13 points.
While Reggio Emilia will finish anywhere from sixth to eighth spot in the Serie A Regular Season, Royal Hali Gaziantep know that they are no longer in the race for a play-off spot in the Turkish BEKO TBL league. Gaziantep however all but secured ninth place at the weekend, as they enjoyed a 95-61 rout of Aliaga Petkim on the road.
Murat Goktas led all scorers with 21 points on an eye-popping 7-for-10 from three-point range, Domen Lorbek added 14 points while Dejan Borvnjak, Oliver Stevic and Baris Ermis finished with 12 points apiece.
The fourth team that participated in the EuroChallenge Final Four, finalists Triumph Lyubertsy, lost the opening game of their VTB United league play-off series against Spartak St Petersburg, 74-57.
Playing on the road, Triumph led 35-33 at half-time but suffered a collapse in the final frame, scoring only nine points while giving up 22 points to their hosts in that period.
Kyle Landry, who finished with 16 points and Jeremy Chappell, who collected 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists were the only Triumph players to score in double digits.
The EuroChallenge finalists now have no margin for error if they are to prevail in the best-of-three series but are hosting the second game, as well as the deciding third encounter, if necessary, at home.
Meanwhile fellow Russian side Krasnye Krylia, who had conquered the EuroChallenge title last season and fell in the play-offs to eventual champions Reggio Emilia this year, have already punched their ticket to the VTB league quarter-finals.
The Samara side swept their series against Enisey 2-0 as Aaron Miles came up with a fantastic triple-double of 13 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists to lift them to a 101-90 comeback victory in Game 2 on Sunday.
Krasnye Krylia will go up against Unics Kazan in the quarter-finals, in a series that will commence after the second leg of the Eurocup finals, in which Kazan are facing Valencia.