Le Mans gave its fans a parting gift in the form of a win in the club's home finale in its Euroleague debut season by downing RheinEnergie Cologne 69-60 in a Group A encounter in France on Thursday night. Le Mans improved to 4-9 and broke its six-game losing streak, but still cannot qualify for the Top 16 due to its tie-break disadvantage against Prokom Trefl, which beat it twice this season. Meanwhile, RheinEnergie dropped to 2-11 and will finish the regular season last in the group. Eric Campbell and Alain Koffi led the winners each with 13 points. Kenny Gregory added 12 points and Sandro Nicevic 10 for Le Mans. Marcin Gortat had 17 points for RheinEnergie, while Demond Mallet posted 14. RheinEnergie hit 11 of 13 shots to get a 20-25 edge after 10 minutes and keep a 34-38 halftime lead. Le Mans improved its defense in the final period and found a go-to guy in Campbell, who shined early in the final period to make his team add a prestigious home win.
Gortat got RheinEnergie going with an easy layup, but Koffi answered the same way for a 2-2 tie. Immanuel McElroy scored around the basket before Koffi and Gortat exchanged layups again for a 4-6 RheinEnergie edge. Campbell fed Gregory for a close basket, but a red-hot Gortat banked in a turnaround jumper. Demond Mallet hit a five-meter shot, but Gregory shined with his first dunk. Both teams kept exchanging baskets at full speed, as Nicevic brought Le Mans within 10-11. Mallet fired in one from downtown, but Gregory answered with a short jumper. Devin Green buried a triple from the left wing and Mallet scored inside to make Le Mans call timeout at 12-19. Nicevic and Gortat traded baskets, and McElroy buried a jumper that Gregory erased with a driving basket. Another layup by Gortat, a power basket by an active Gregory and a put-back layup by Yannick Bokolo fixed the score at 20-25 after 10 minutes.
Nicevic buried another short jumper at the the start of the second quarter, as Le Mans improved its defense. Even with that, Mallet scored in transition, but Nicevic found space for a layup to get Le Mans within 24-27. RheinEnergie called timeout, but an unstoppable Nicevic hit another jumper. Points came the hard way now, especially for the guests, who were limited to just two in over 5 minutes. Guido Grunheid found space in the paint for his first basket, but Koffi scored again to keep Le Mans within 28-29. Gortat left no doubt about his power with a big dunk, which Gregory erased with a layup. Nicolas Batum had a big block on Gortat, but Grunheid picked up the offensive board and scored. Campbell stepped up with consecutive layups, but the final seconds belonged to Mallet. He followed with a triple and a big jumper, which allowed RheinEnergie to take a 34-38 edge at halftime.
Green shined with a dunk right after the break, but Campbell erased it with a close basket. Bokolo hit free throws, as Le Mans kept shining on the defensive end. Campbell collected a steal and thrilled the crowd with a two-handed dunk, good for a 40-40 tie. RheinEnergie called timeout, but Bokolo capped a 9-0 run with a triple from the top of the key. Green dunked it again, but Campbell kept finding easy baskets in the middle. Le Mans kept trying a 2-3 zone defense, which Gortat beat with a tip-in. Bokolo fed Gregory for a layup that gave Le Mans a 47-44 edge after 27 minutes. Both teams went scoreless for almost 2 minutes until Koffi drew a foul and made free throws for a 49-44 Le Mans lead. Gortat copied him in the other end to bring RheinEnergie within 49-46 after three quarters.
Janar Talts shined with a reverse layup early in the final period, but Batum immediately answered from downtown to give Le Mans a 52-48 edge. Aleksandar Nadjfeji scored in the paint, but Koffi shined with a two-handed dunk. Nadjfeji scored again, but Le Mans soon regained its momentum. Campbell hit a free throw before Batum dunked it off a steal to give the hosts a 57-52 lead with 6 minutes remaining. Grunheid stepped up with a second-chance layup, but Le Mans now had the right attitude in defense. Meanwhile, Nebojsa Bogavac fired in a corner three-pointer for a 61-54 lead. RheinEnergie called timeout, but Koffi buried a jumper and Batum dunked it coming off the baseline to seal the win, 65-56, with less than 2 minutes to go. RheinEnergie kept trying quick shots, but Le Mans had made the difference with outstanding defense and managed to break its losing streak in front of its own fans.
Thursday, January 25, 2007