Tyrone Ellis led six Eldo Napoli scorers in double figures with 18 points as his team remained in the hunt for a spot in the Top 16 with a 92-87 victory Thursday over Zalgiris Kaunas in Naples, Italy. The game went down to the wire and became a free-throw shooting contest, with Vidas Ginevicius missing two crucial ones and Ellis making 5-of-6 in the final minute to help Napoli improve to 3-6, good for sixth place in Group C. Zalgiris dropped its seventh straight game, falling to 1-8 and last place in the standings. Ellis added 8 assists and 3 steals in the winning effort, while Michel Morandais matched his season-high with 16 points, Jeff Trepagnier had 15, Mason Rocca 12, Alessandro Cittadini 11 and Ansu Sesay 10. Tanoka Beard posted 26 points and 9 rebounds for Zalgiris, Hanno Mottola added 16, Paulius Jankunas 12 and Mantas Kalnietis 10.
Morandais started strong for Eldo with 4 quick points, and Sesay added a three before Marcelinho Machado answered back from downtown for Zalgiris. Beard went to work underneath and a second bomb from Machado gave Zalgiris its first lead. Jankunas added a basket from the low post as Kaunas started to gain confidence, but Eldo soon reduced the gap via Morandais. Two free throws by Jankunas made it 13-18 for the visitors, but a pair of Simone Flamini three pointers combined with Cittadini's best efforts on the glass brought the hosts right back. Trepagnier's basket and a bomb by Beard ended the first quarter with the score knotted at 21-21.
Mantas Kalnietis opened the second quarter with a fast-break only to see the momentum swing back to Napoli as Trepagnier finished off an alley-hoop and then scored three the hard way to make it 26-23. Eldo's defense shut down Machado, but allowed Zalgiris some open shots from the corner. Trepagnier was at his best, again scoring a three-pointer and Cittadini stole a ball and scored to put Napoli ahead by 5. Kaunas coach Rimantas Grigas sent Mottola in lto beef up his rebounding, but Napoli played with more intensity and increased its lead to 35-29 through an inside basket by Flamini. Ginevicius's layup showed signs of life from Zalgiris, but Napoli was not ready to relax and closed the first half with 4 points from Rocca. On the other side, Jonas Maciulis's free throws made it 43-38 at halftime.
Ellis opened the second half with a triple, but Beard answered with two points. Morandais scored a layup to give Eldo a 6-point advantage, but Beard again scored a free throw and a basket from the high post before Ginevicius tied the game at 48-48. Ellis and Sesay with a basket and a triple lifted Napoli up again and Rocca's layup capped a 7-0 spurt. Ginevicius missed a three and Morandais scored two free throws to make it 59-50. Jankunas scored a layup, but Eldo erased it when Morandais hit from behind the arc and soon added two free throws for Eldo's first double-digit advantage. Beard went inside for a slam and Kirk Penney scored on the break to close the gap to 68-61 after 30 minutes, keeping the visitors' hope alive.
Two bad mistakes by Valerio Spinelli gave Beard and Kalnietis the opportunity for a brilliant start to the fourth quarter that put Zalgiris back on track, 68-67, causing Eldo coach Pier Luigi Bucchi to call a time out. Ellis came back from a brief rest, but Zalgiris went on top through Mottola's triple, finishing a 0-9 run in 90 seconds that put Kaunus up 2. Rocca scored and then Trepagnier made a layup as the lead swung back to the home side. Mottola and Morandais and then Kalnietis and Cittadini traded baskets before Trepagnier scored another triple, but Beard came through once more. Cittadini made two from the line with two minutes remaining, and Maciulis then missed a triple on the other end. Grigas called a timeout with his side 3 points down, but Ellis made it 4 from the line. With one minute to go, Beard made two free throws and Napoli missed a chance, but then Ellis stole the ball and drew a foul. The guard missed his free throws and Beard brought Zalgiris within 1, but it wasn't enough after two free throws missed by Ginevicius. Ellis then made 4-of-5 from the line in the closing seconds to seal the win, 92-87, for Napoli.
Thursday, December 21, 2006