Facing near-elimination on its homecourt on Thursday, Eldo Napoli staged a heroic comeback to down visiting Winterthur FCB by 66-64 and keep its Top 16 hopes alive in Group C. Napoli rallied from 13 points down with 12 minutes to play thanks to an incredible 23-3 run that was good enough to take the win in the closing seconds. Napoli improved to 4-7 and remains tied for sixth place of Group C with Fenerbahce Ulker, both a single victory behind sixth-place Aris TT Bank. On the other hand, Barcelona dropped to 8-3 and endangered its hopes of chasing CSKA Moscow for first place. Michel Morandais was the best scorer for the winners with 23 points. Mason Rocca added a double-double of 15 and 10 boards and Tyron Ellis chipped in 10. For Barcelona, Juan Carlos Navarro was again the best scorer with 21 points and only Jaka Lakovic joined him in double-digits with his 11 points. Barcelona led 39-52 with 12 minutes left to play before Napoli's monster run turned around the game and the team's chances over the last three regular season dates.
Jay Larranaga started off Napoli with a triple and Ansu Sesay added a basket to send the hosts up 5-0. Navarro got Barcelona's first points on a running layup, but Morandais made his first triple a strike to make it 8-2. Lakovic replied from the arc for Barcelona, but Rocca in the low post and Morandais with his second triple made it 13-5. Again, however, Barcelona matched him, this time with Rodrigo De la Fuente burying one from downtown. Morandais had help this time, with Ellis drilling his own triple and Rocca scoring again in the paint for a sudden double-digit advantage, 18-8. Lakovic got 3 points back on one shot, and substitute Denis Marconato made it 18-13. The Barcelona surge continued with another Marconato layup and the eighth triple of the quarter, this one by Gianluca Basile, narrowing the difference to 20-18 after 10 minutes.
Conversely, more than 2 minutes of the second quarter passed with no scoring, until Valerio Spinelli drove to the basket for Napoli. Lakovic answered with his third triple, which sparked Barcelona's biggest move yet. Michalis Kakiouzis put in the next 3 points and Roger Grimau a layup before Basile extended the run to 0-13 with a triple and free trhows that made it 22-30. The longer run, since the middle of the first quarter, was now 4-22 in Barcelona's favor. Morandais tried to revive Napoli with a dunk, but the hosts soon lost Ellis to a wrist injury after he collided Marconato, who made his free throws. Navarro added 2 more and a layup before Vazquez finished the half by dunking Barcelona to a comfortable 27-39 advantage.
The Napoli comeback was delayed as Marconato opened the second half with a layup and Navarro sooned bombed from the perimeter to make it 31-44. The Napoli defense then tightened long enough for Ellis, back on court, to dunk and Morandais to hit a jumper, but Navarro was not done. He sandwiched a pair of new triples around another by Morandais and drove for a layup as Barcelona held onto its 13-point lead, 39-52, through 28 minutes. Napoli still wanted to fight, however. Before the quarter could end, Ellis and Rocca got to the line and hit 2 free throws each before Trepagnier stole and went the length of the court for a dunk to cut the gap almost in half, to 45-52, after 30 minutes.
A layup by Vazquez at the start of the last quarter seemed to steady Barcelona. But then Morandais hit free throws and Ellis a triple from the arc, bringing Napoli fully back into the game at 50-54. Barcelona was suffering now and Rocca took advantage with back-to-back layups that completed an incredible 15-2 run and the comeback by tying the score 54-54. There were 7 minutes left to play. Morandais stealed a ball, but the spanish defence didn't leave an easy shot. Grimau's free throw restored Barcelona's lead, but only until Rocca struck again and Sesay launched a bomb from the corner that thrilled the crowd and forced a timeout by the visitors. It wasn't long before another Barcelona turnover led to Morandais converting from the arc for a 62-55 lead by Napoli with 3 minutes left. Marconato and Kakiouzis shared 3 free throws as Napoli saw Rocca leave with his fifth foul. Morandais steadied the hosts with a layup to make it 64-58 with less than 2 minutes on the clock. Lakovic revived the guests with a basket, and while nerves set in on Napoli's side, Navarro stepped up with a huge triple from the corner to make it 64-63. Alessandro Cittadini went to the line after an offensive rebound to make 1 of 2 free throws, while Lakovic missed both of his, but Marconato grabbed the offensive rebound. Sesay stole for Napoli, but now Ellis also blew 2 at the line, with 7 seconds left. Navarro got the last chance to tie, but missed 1 of his 2 foul shots, sothat when Morandais did the same, Napoli had a miracle comeback win to stay alive in Group C.
Thursday, January 11, 2007