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EuroChallenge Semi-Finalists Stay Hot

17 March 2014

BASKETBALL IN EUROPE

14. Riccardo Cervi (Reggio Emilia)
Reggio Emilia's Riccardo Cervi sealed the final result from the free throw line

The three teams which secured last week a spot in the EuroChallenge Final Four, carried over on Sunday their European quarter-final form to domestic or regional competitions.

Triumph Lyubertsy, Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia and Royal Hali Gaziantep completed a clean sweep of their respective EuroChallenge play-off series on Thursday, after clinching two wins within less than 48 hours, but looked as fresh as always just three days later when they returned to action.

Reggio Emilia were the ones made to work harder of the three, as they were playing on the road and fell behind by 10 points, 68-58, with less than three minutes remaining in their local derby with Granarolo Bologna in the Italian Serie A.

However, the veteran Rimantas Kaukenas, who was coming off two excellent displays in the EuroChallenge play-offs midweek, sparked and capped off a furious 12-2 Reggiana run which saw the visitors drawing level at 70 shortly before the final buzzer.

The game looked destined to go into overtime but Riccardo Cervi intercepted Bologna's inbound pass, drew the foul and split his two free throws to gift Reggio Emilia a 71-70 victory almost at the death.

All Reggio Emilia starters scored in double digits as James White had 16 points, Ojars Silins added 14 points, Cervi finished with a close double-double of 13 points and nine rebounds while Kaukenas and Andrea Cinciarini had 11 points apiece.

"It is a great win after an honestly very ugly game but, believe me, we arrived from Russia two days ago and this was the maximum we could play with the energy we had left," said Reggio Emilia head coach Massimiliano Menetti.

"We won because even when we fell behind we stayed focused and lucid and did all the right things in the last three minutes."

"We have just completed an almost historical week for the club, because we clinched the qualification to the EuroChallenge Final Four and now we have followed it up with a win in the derby with Bologna."

Ernest Bremer (Royal Hali Gaziantep)
Ernest Bremer led Gaziantep with 23 points

The Italians will take on Gaziantep in the second EuroChallenge semi-final at the end of April and the Turkish team also celebrated reaching the Final Four by clinching a road win upon their return to Turkish domestic league action.

Gaziantep travelled to Mersin BSB and, unlike Reggio Emilia, spent a rather uneventful Sunday evening as they led their hosts by 10 points already in the first quarter and widened the gap after the break to pick up a comfortable 88-58 win.

Coach Jure Zdovc took the chance to rest somewhat his weary key players and gave playing time to 11 men on his squad, but veteran Ernest Bremer still spent 32 minutes on the floor and led all scorers with 23 points, also adding three assists.

Dejan Borovnjak and Mutlu Akpinar finished with 16 points each while Finnish international Mikko Koivisto added 10 points for the winners.

Gaziantep have improved to 10-12 and reclaimed eighth place in the Turkish BEKO TBL standings as both their direct rivals, TED Ankara and Tofas Bursa, slumped to defeats at the weekend.

With only eight game days remaining in the TBL regular season Gaziantep are now well-positioned to maintain the play-off berth, but they are facing powerhouses Galatasaray, Anadolu Efes and Fenerbahce Ulker in their three upcoming games.

One team that has no worries about their play-off status is fellow EuroChallenge semi-finalist Triumph Lyubertsy.

The Russian side had secured third spot in regular season group B in the VTB United league (behind Khimki and CSKA Moscow) last weekend, just two days before commencing their EuroChallenge quarter-final series with Ural Ekaterinburg.

21. Jeremy Chappell (Triumph Lyubertsy)
Jeremy Chappell sparked Triumph with a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double

Vasiliy Karasev's men returned to VTB action on Sunday and, as if by way of celebration, extended their winning streak across all competitions to five games with an 81-73 success away at Tsmoki Minsk.

The Belarusians were not only keen to bounce back from their disappointing loss to Gaziantep in the EuroChallenge play-offs on Thursday, but were also playing their last card in maintaining alive their options in the VTB play-off race.

Minsk therefore started off looking very sharp and led by double digits, 23-13, shortly before the end of the first quarter.

Jeremy Chappell however poured in seven of his 14 points in the opening minutes of the second quarter and Triumph pushed ahead 30-27 with 6:02 remaining to the half-time buzzer.

Triumph led only 37-36 at the break and Minsk reclaimed the lead momentarily when play resumed, but Evgeny Voronov with a jumper instigated a 9-0 run for the visitors which brought them ahead 48-40, and the Russians never looked back.

Voronov led all Triumph scorers with 16 points and added four assists, Chappell collected a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds and also added seven assists while Ivan Lazarev finished with 11 points and four boards for the winners.

Triumph have only one game remaining in the VTB league regular season, against group leaders Khimki, which is of no consequence to their position on the table.

The Russian team will commence the play-off battle in the VTB league in April while Minsk are out of contention and will turn focus on their domestic league until the end of the season.

In the EuroChallenge semi-finals, Triumph will face the winner of the pending quarter-final series between Tartu University Rock and Szolnoki Olaj.


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