| A stellar defensive effort spelled the difference as by Le Mans Sarthe Basket won 61-55 over BC Donetsk of Ukraine on Wednesday at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Qualifying Rounds in Desio, Italy. Le Mans advances to play Unics Kazan of Russia in the semifinals of qualifying on Thursday, while Donetsk will go home and get ready to participate in the Eurocup again this season. Le Mans held Donetsk to just 8 points in the final quarter to decide what had been a close, defensive battle all along. Cameron Long led the winners with 14 points, while Alain Koffi and Khalid El-Amin added 12 each and Pape Sy 10. For Donetsk, Doron Perkins put up 15 points, Vojdan Stojanovski 11 and Ramel Curry 10, while D'or Fischer registered 5 blocks.
Fischer's early basket and monster block sparked a Donetsk run to a 4-8 lead as Stojanovski scored twice. Another Fischer block and Darius Songalia's baseline layup offset a fastbreak dunk by Sy as the score was 6-10 for Donetsk halfway through the opening quarter. Tough defense continued to dominate at both ends of the floor as Joao Paolo Batista got Le Mans closer from the free throw line. Long broke a series of free throws with a sweet three-pointer at 11-14, but Songaila answered with a hook shot for Donetsk. When Maxym Pustozvonov climbed off the bench for a big triple, Donetsk was able to finish the first quarter with a 13-19 advantage.
Le Mans fans could only be overjoyed to see Koffi score 4 points early in the second quarter after more than a year that the club's homegrown veteran center was sidelined with injury. After a Unics timeout, Koffi also did the honor of taking back the lead, 21-20, on his second wide-open dunk in as many minutes. The Le Mans defense held Donetsk without a basket for almost 6 minutes until Stojanovski's jumper forced a 22-22 tie. it was the first of three ties until El-Amin drilled a triple from the top and then dished to Koffi for another dunk. Stojanovski answered the triple, but Le Mans held onto a 35-31 advantage at the half.
Donetsk tied it up right away after the break with Songalia's feed to Perkins for a dunk. But Songalia was soon out of the game with his fifth foul, a technical. Curry's second basket of the half had Donestk back in front, 40-41, but his team contiunued committing more fouls even though it limited its high turnover rate. Long put Le Mans back in front, 43-41, at the foul line, but Donetsk got those back and more as a one-handed fastbreak finish by Perkins put Le Mans up by 43-47. But El-Amin had the last word with a buzzer-beating three-pointer that meant Le Mans was in charge, 48-47, after three quarters.
An El-Amin-to-Koffi connection raised the Le Mans lead to start the fourth quarter, but otherwise points remained hard to come by for either team. Despite a slip while he passed, El Amin found Koffi again and his 2 perfect free throws gave Le Mans its highest lead so far, 52-47, with 7 minutes left. Perkins got Donetsk's first basket of the quarter before Fischer slammed an offensive rebound to make it 52-51 with under 5 minutes left. Long assisted Batista for a dunk as Le Mans breathed easier, then Charles Kahudi's free throws made it 56-51 with 2:30 to play. Then came the clincher, a five-pass play that finished with Long hitting nothing but net from downtown to make it 59-51. Curry got a quick basket back and Fischer his fourth block, but Donetsk ran out of time as Le Mans looked forward to Thursday's semifinals.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012