Mapooro Cantu is only one win away from a return to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague regular season after seeing off CEZ Basketball Nymburk 89-83 in the second stage of the qualifying rounds in Desio, Italy, on Thursday. Maarty Leunen nailed back-to-back three-pointers to end the third-quarter and start the fourth as Cantu used a 13-0 run to surge ahead 74-57. Nymburk fought its way back within 6 in the final minute, but Cantu held on. Cantu advances to play the qualifying rounds final on the same floor on Friday, while Nymburk will continue its European season in the Eurocup. The Czech champs had a 43-44 lead at halftime, but foul trouble plagued Nymburk as Cantu took a slim lead, which grew rapidly behind Leunen and co. Pietro Aradori led all scorers with 19 points, Jerry Smith added 16 points and 5 assists and Jeff Brooks scored 13 off the bench for the winners. Mike Taylor and A.J. Abrams led Nymburk with 16 points apiece, Lukas Palyza netted 13 and Christos Tapoutos and Drew Naymick scored 12 each in defeat.
Both teams went inside for the opening points with Petr Benda making a nice basket for Nymburk and Marco Cusin matching him for Cantu. A fast pace produced lots of action in the early going as Palyza and Taylor nailed threes for Nymburk and Aradori and Smith generated offense for the hosts. A smith steal lead to a Manu Markoishvilli fast break layup-plus-foul – Abrams’s second in less than five minutes – which lifted Cantu to 16-10. Brooks added to Cantu’s lead as Nymburk suffered through a costly four-plus minute drought, during which Cantu reeled off 10 unanswered points. Taylor found a hole in the Cantu defense to dart in for a dunk to end the drought. Nymburk closed the gap after a Tapoutos three and a Taylor floater, but Leunen kept Cantu on top with a big three, which left his team ahead 23-17 through 10 minutes.
Nicolas Mazzarino lifted Cantu to a 9-point advantage after swishing a deep three early in the second quarter, but Nymburk never quit and before long a Taylor triple followed by a Benda move in the paint made it 28-26. A brilliant Taylor dish in transition to Tapoutos tied it and then the Greek forward capped a 0-12 surge for the Czech champs with a three-pointer. Brooks penetrated to get Cantu going, but Abrams extended Nymburk’s lead with a second-chance three-pointer, 30-34. After Aradori scored twice from the line, Smith tied it with a pull-up jumper and then put Cantu on top with a layup. Abrams and Smith moved into a duel with successive triple that left Nymburk in the lead. Aradori had the last basket of the half, but Nymburk remained ahead, 43-44.
Things started brilliantly for Cantu as Markoishvili nailed a triple and then took a pass from Smith for a layup. However Taylor stepped up with a three to show that Nymburk would not fold. The Nymburk playmaker followed that with a drive for a three-point play that tied the score at 50-50, but on the successive play was whistled for his fourth foul – with 7:35 remaining in the third quarter. Even without Taylor, Tapoutos managed to give Nymburk the lead, but Smith drove for a basket-plus-foul of his own. Aradori made it 56-52 before Nymburk coach Ronen Ginzburg called for timeout midway through the third quarter. Just as Aradori seemed to take charge, he also took a seat with 4 fouls. An Abrams turnover led to an unsportsmanlike foul, which Brooks took advantage of with 2 free throws to make it 61-55. Alex Tyus’s first basket and Mazzarino free throws padded the lead before Leunen put Cantu up by double figures for the first time with a three at the end of the quarter, 68-57.
Leunen picked up where he left off with his third three of the game to open the fourth quarter before Mazzarino connected from downtown to cap a 13-0 run. Naymick’s hook shot ended the Nymburk drought, but soon Jonathan Tabu further extended the lead and Taylor fouled out. A Palyza jumper and Abrams triple gave Nymburk a sliver of hope at 77-64. Despite a Cantu timeout, the hosts’ offense went quiet and Palyza hit another triple. However a basket-plus-foul by Brooks restored a comfortable 80-67 lead with four minutes to go. Abrams and Palyza kept firing away, but the visitors had no answers on defense. And when Aradori went through the Nymburk defense for a three-point play to make it 89-76 with 76 seconds left, the outcome was clear and the home fans began celebrating. A late Aradori turnover left Nymburk with a slim chance, down 6 with the ball and 12 seconds to go, but
Thursday, September 27, 2012