Alba Berlin took a giant step in reaching the Top 16 from Group C when it grabbed a thrillling 75-79 road victory at DKV Joventut in Badalona, Spain on Wednesday. Both teams now have 4-5 records. Alba would win any tie between them after the regular season ends due to having won both their games. A three-way tie with Fenerbahce (4-4) won't help Joventut, either, since it lost both their games, as well. Alba will advance to the Top 16 if it defeats last-place Union Olimpija next week. Joventut has to hope that doesn't happen, or that Fenerbahce loses its last two games, but in either case has to also beat mighty Tau Ceramica away. The difference between Alba controlling its destiny and Joventut being all but eliminated came in a back-and-forth thriller that saw Immanuel McElroy score 26 points for the winners, including 4 of 4 three-pointers and his game-ending dunk to end all doubt. Alba also received 12 points and 12 rebounds from Aleksandar Nadjfeji plus 12 points from Casey Jacobsen. Julius Jenkins finally returned to action for Alba, playing great defense while collecting 4 points and 5 assists. Alba knocked down 10 of 18 three-point shots (55%) , while Joventut made just 12 of 21 foul shots (57%) in the loss. Jan Jagla scored 15 points for Joventut while Bracey Wright hit for 13 and Edu Hernandez-Sonseca and Simas Jasaitis each scored 11.
Ferran Laviña put Joventut ahead to start the game on a fine cut to the basket. Bracey Wright and Hernandez-Sonseca added baskets to open a 6-0 lead. Jacobsen drained a three-pointer from the left wing to get Alba on the board only to have Bracey Wright rush back for a driving layup to make it 8-3. Joventut continued its fine interior passing as Hernandez-Sonseca fed Laviña for a 10-3 lead. Ansu Sesay hit Alba's second long ball before Jacobsen picked up a steal and fed McElroy for a break-away layup. McElroy made 2 foul shots to even the game at 10-10. Bracey Wright went the other way and drained a three-point shot only to be matched by Jacobsen, who would hit again from long range for a 13-16 Alba advantage. As Joventut intensified its defensive pressure. Jasaitis knocked down a three-point shot and, following a steal, Pau Ribas hit a long ball of his own. The second of two Jenkins turnovers ended with Ricky Rubio making a great assist to Jerome Moiso in the lane to complete a 10-0 run that gave Joventut a 23-16 lead after one quarter.
Adam Chubb opened the second quarter scoring for the guests, after which Jenkins fed McElroy on the break and Nadjfeji got inside for a dunk to make it 23-22. Hernandez-Sonseca tipped in Jagla's miss and made 2 foul shots for a 27-22 lead that stopped the Alba surge. Nadjfeji converted a nice pass from Jenkins, made the accompanying foul shot and then scored on the break to knot the game at 27-27. Jagla answered for Joventut by hitting a triple from the right wing. Bracey Wright hit a tough layup in the lane and Pere Tomas downed 2 free throws as Joventut still led 34-29. Rubio then stole a pass at mid-court and found Jagla for a long alley-oop layup before Tomas fed Bracey Wright Bracey Wright for a long layup as Joventut surged ahead 38-31, forcing an Alba time-out. Jenkins finally scored his first two points from the foul line and then McElroy got out on the break for a dunk to have Joventut call for a time-out ahead 40-35. Rashad Wright would then hit for Alba and the deficit was down to 41-37 at the break.
McElroy opened the second half with a triple. Sesay followed suit from long range before Steffen Hamann stole the ball from Rubio and coasted in for a break-away layup to make it 41-45. Jagla stopped the Alba 0-8 run with a crucial three-pointer. But Hamann answered with a long ball of his own to make it 44-48. Jagla scored back-to-back baskets, the second being a dunk on the break to even the game at 48-48. But McElroy quieted the Joventut crowd with a jumper from the right baseline. Laviña pushed Joventut back ahead with a three-pointer only to be matched by another triple from McElroy. Dragan Dojcin was fed inside by Jacobsen to make it 51-55 but Demond Mallet got into the long range shooting night with a triple. Nadjfeji, however, hit inside and then Jacobsen converted a three-point play after a driving layup to give Alba a 54-60 advantage. Jasaitis beat the buzzer for a long two-point jumper and then Moiso put back an offensive rebound to keep Joventut within 58-63 after three periods.
Nadjfeji's free throw opened the fourth quarter. Rubio hit a foul shot and then sent a nice pass to Hernandez-Sonseca who dunked to get the crowd into the game, with Joventut trailing 61-64. Rubio then fed inside to Moiso, who dunked with the left hand to bring Joventut within one point. Alba would not give up the lead as Jenkins attacked the rim and left the ball for Dojcin for an easy lay-in. But Hernandez-Sonseca drained a three-point shot and the game was even 66-66. Jenkins then got a lucky bounce on his short jumper in the lane and Rashad Wright hit a tough inside shot and Alba was back ahead 66-70. But Jagla came up with yet another big shot - a triple to make it 69-70. McElroy, however, was one better with yet another long ball from way outside and it was 69-73. After Jasaitis was fouled and made three free throws, McElroy continued his outstanding night with a layup, which was matched by a Jasaitis lay-in. Rashad Wright gave Alba a 74-77 lead with a jumper just inside the arc with less than a minute left. Jagla rebounded Rubio's missed three-pointer but stepped out of bounds. Joventut was trying to foul a Alba player but got lucky in having Sesay get called for travelling. Bracey Wright Wright was just short on his three-pointer from the left wing and Joventut sent Nadjfeji to the foul line with less than 10 seconds to play. Nadjfeji missed both shots and Alba fouled Jasaitis, who made the first with 5.5 seconds left but missed the second on purpose. Alba grabbed the rebound and avoided Joventut's attempts to foul and McElroy dunked home the winner just before the buzzer.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009