Unics Kazan edged Pepsi Caserta 79-77 Wednesday night at the Basket-Hall in Kazan, Russia, to seal their ticket to the Eurocup Finals in Treviso, Italy, next month. Kazan needed only to protect its 6-point advantage from Game 1 of their quarterfinals series and a 26-17 first quarter and 11-3 run in the second basically set up the win, as the hosts had just enough the rest of way. Maciej Lampe paced the winners with 31 points and 16 rebounds and Marko Popovic added 17 and 6 assists, while Vladimir Veremeenko recorded 11 points and 8 boards. Pepsi Caserta rallied late to take a lead in the game, but was unable to make up the aggregate difference and eventually came up short in the game too. Jumaine Jones starred with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Timmy Bowers scored 15 points and grabbed 6 boards, while Eric Williams and Ebi Ere finished with 11 points apiece in defeat.
Caserta tried to build some momentum early by going inside to Williams and even posting up Bowers, while Kazan opted for its patented pick-and-roll game with Popovic and Lampe, as the forward scored 8 of his team’s first 12 points en route to a 12-4 start, forcing visiting head coach Stefano Sacripanti to burn his team’s first timeout. With Kazan locking down the defensive boards and flowing offensively, Popovic shook loose for a mid-range jumper that stretched the lead to double digits, 17-7. Only Bowers provided a spark for the visitors in the first quarter, until Lukasz Koszarek answered a Terrell Lyday triple with an off-balanced runner and the second quarter was reached at 26-17.
Kazan kept setting the tone in the second quarter as Lyday assisted Lampe for another close-range bucket and the hosts controlled the tempo with Popovic heating up from beyond the arc and Lyday capitalizing on penetrations to build a 41-25 lead. Jones showed flashes on the offensive end for Caserta, but the visitors could not seal the glass defensively, granting second, third and even fourth-chance opportunities to Unics, who went on an 11-3 run. The hosts moved the ball well in the halfcourt against a 2-3 zone, keeping Sacripanti’s squad off balance. Unable to score against the potent Russian frontcourt, Caserta tried to stretch the defense with perimeter shooting, but Bowers’ triple that made it 46-31 score was more the exception than the rule, as the visitors reached halftime still well behind, 46-35, even after 7 straight unanswered points by the guard.
Caserta came out on fire after the break with a pair of quick three-pointers by Jones and a jumper by Bowers that tightened the difference to 5 and prompted a timeout by Unics boss Evgeny Pashutin. Popovic again gave Unics some breathing room with a triple, but Caserta had found the perimeter touch, and got within 53-50 with an Ebi Ere beyond-the-arc shot. With their 18-point lead long gone, Kazan went back to the basics and got Lampe some high-percentage looks while buckling down defensively, though nobody could stop Williams from converting on another offensive put-back and Jones from tying the game from downtown at 57-57. Caserta suddenly had found its mojo and hit the offensive glass with a vengeance, but Unics was still able to enter the fourth quarter on top, 63-59, thanks to 4 unanswered points by Lampe.
With 10 minutes to play and tension mounting, both teams struggled to find the bottom of the net, and only Lampe seemed to enjoy the golden touch, muscling for inside baskets and hitting a jumper to keep his team in the driver’s seat, 69-63. Williams took it to Lampe on an off-balanced bank shot on the next possession and followed with a dunk down the lane before Jones made it a one-possession game by swishing a baseline jumper. The visiting side was feeling it and went to Fabio Di Bella to take the lead form the free throw line, as Williams capped off a 0-9 run with a dunk to give his team hope at 71-74 with under three minutes left to play in the game. Lampe again answered the call to drop a layup and assist Veremeenko on another and turn the tables before Jones nailed another triple to score it 75-77 with just over a minute left. But with the Game 1 deficit looming over Caserta, the visiting squad was not able to beat the clock, and Veremeenko and Minard converted 4 straight foul shots to seal the win for Unics and a ticket to the Eurocup Finals.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011