Entente Orleanaise will play in the Euroleague fir the first time in club history after a surviving a thriller against Benetton Gioco Digitale Treviso on Tuesday night at Zenith Arena in Orleans, France. Benetton won Game 2 of the home-and-away series 80-82, but Orleans’s 9-point win from the opener gave it the aggregate victory and a spot in Regular Season Group B, alongside classic Euroleague teams like Olympiacos, Partizan, Unicaja and Efes Pilsen. It was a roller coaster of a game as Ryvon Covile’s 10 points gave the hosts a 38-33 halftime lead and a 14-point aggregate edge. Gary Neal dominated with 16 third-quarter points to lead a 13-26 comeback and turn the tables on Orleans. Benetton led by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter – 4 points aggregate – but young Adrien Moerman, scoreless through three quarters, came alive with 3 three-pointers and 15 points in the last 10 minutes to rescue Orleans and lead it to victory and the Euroleague. Moerman and Austin Nichols led the winners with 15 points apiece, Cedrick Banks added 14, Ryvon Covile scored 10 and veteran playmaker Laurent Sciarra dished 7 assists. Neal paced Benetton with 29 points, Sandro Nicevic scored 17, Jasmin Hukic posted 10 points and 9 rebounds and Daniel Hackett had 10 points and 5 assists for Benetton, which will continue its season in the Eurocup.
Orleans won the opening tip and got the ball to Covile, who scored the opening point from the line. An Anthony Dobbins steal led to a Nichols basket moments later before Nicevic got Benetton first score on the offensive glass. Nichols and Covile had the hosts up 7-2 and then back-to-back triples by Aldo Curti and Dobbins made it 13-3, leading to Benetton head coach Frank Vitucci calling a timeout. The break helped as C.J. Wallace, Neal and Hukic all connected from downtown to lead Benetton back to 15-12. But a Dobbins layup and Covile slam helped Orleans take a 20-14 advantage after 10 minutes.
Nicevic’s basket-plus-foul further narrowed the gap as the second quarter got underway, however in no time a pair of Ludo Vaty baskets sandwiched a Banks triple and Orleans was back up by double figures, 27-17. Neal heated up for the visitors with 5 straight points and Andrea Renzi added a bucket to make it 29-26. Banks and Covile stretched the lead to 9 again only for Cartier Martin free throws and a Hukic three-pointer to keep Benetton within 38-33 at halftime and down 14 on aggregate.
Justin Doellman started the second half with a pair of free throws, but Neal fired back with a three-pointer and he was just getting started. Hukic also hit a triple and Neal scored twice more in a 0-10 run that put Benetton ahead for the first time. Doellman answered with a three that knotted the game at 43-43, but Neal scored the game’s next 9 points as Benetton soared to even the score of the series. Banks hit back with a triple for Orleans, only for Nicevic to score inside and Hackett from downtown to make it 46-57, silencing the Orleans crowd. Only a Nicholas three-point play got the hosts back within the needed margin by the end of the third quarter, 51-59.
A showdown was on as the fourth quarter began. A Hackett jumper was met by a Nichols triple, cutting the gap to 7. Hackett soon made it 10 again with his second three-pointer, but Moerman was there to answer for Orleans. Neal scored from downtown and mid-range as Benetton built a 58-71 advantage. After Vaty and Nicevic traded baskets, Moerman came alive with back-to-back triples. A Nichols three capped a 9-0 burst that put Orleans back in control, 69-73. Hackett scored twice from the line only to see Moerman drill another three-pointer. Nicevic’s basket and 2 free throws by Wallace revived Benetton’s hopes at 72-79 with two minutes to play. But the visitors would get no closer. Banks sealed the win with a triple with a minute to go and an unsportsmanlike foul on Neal wrapped it up as the fans in Orleans celebrated a berth in the Euroleague.
Friday, October 9, 2009