Mapooro Cantu is back in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague after dominating Le Mans Sarthe Basket 80-66 for 40 minutes to win the Qualifying Rounds tourney in Desio, Italy. Maarty Leunen scored 7 in a 15-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to put Le Mans away early. The hosts took charge early and led by double figures in the first quarter. It was 44-38 at halftime. Le Mans rallied to within 8 in the third, however Cantu went on its run right after that and never looked back. Cantu was aided greatly by its sixth men, the local fans known as The Eagles, who packed PalaDesio and kept the arena rocking throughout the game. Le Mans suffered from a poor shooting night in which the team did not make its first three-pointer until the fourth quarter. Le Mans finished the evening 1 of 12 from behind the arc (8.3%) and 17 for 29 from the free throw line (58.6%). Cantu, on the other hand, played great team offense with twice as many assists as Le Mans (16-8). Leunen paced the Cantu attack with 15 points with just 1 missed shot. Pietro Aradori added 12 points and 4 assists, Marco Cusin scored 11 and Manu Markoshvili 10. J.P. Batista led Le Mans with 15 points and Cuthbert Victor scored 12. Cantu will be back at PalaDesio in just under two weeks to host Union Olimpija Ljubljana in the opening week of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season. Cantu will battle it out with Panathinaikos Athens, Real Madrid, Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul and BC Khimki Moscow Region to try to reach the Top 16 for the second season in a row. Le Mans will continue its European campaign in the Eurocup.
Charles Kahudi went through the Cantu defense for the game’s first basket. Aradori countered for the hoists, then Jerry Smith drove and slammed for Cantu’s first lead and Cusin then found a cutting Markoshvili for 6-2. Batista asserted himself down low for Le Mans, but Aradori connected from downtown. Leunen and Markoishvili connected on back-to-back triples, which sandwiched a missed Khalid El-Amin layup, as Cantu soared to 17-6 midway through the opening quarter. Batista remained Le Mans’s top weapon with 2 from the line, but Cantu continued to dictate the action. Cuthbert Victor added 2 more free throws for the visitors, but a vicious Alex Tyus slam got the crowd rocking again. Le Mans blew a chance to get back when Dounia Issa was fouled and a technical foul was assessed to Cantu, but Le Mans players missed all 4 free throws and El-Amin missed from outside on the resulting possession. Instead, Markoishvili hit a jumper at the buzzer for a 23-12 lead through one quarter.
Jeff Brooks took the Cantu lead to new heights with the first basket of the second quarter. Baskets by Cam Long and Pape Sy – the latter with a fortunate roll – gave Le Mans hope. But then Markoishvili found a wide-open Tyus for slam and Aradori came through with a three-point play to bring the fans back to song. A Cusin basket made it 34-19 midway through the second quarter. A pair of Jonathan Tabu free throws coupled with a jumper by Smith capped an 11-0 Cantu run, which gave the hosts’ double Le Mans’s points, 38-19. El-Amin ended a nearly-five minute scoring drought with a basket-plus-foul, but Leunen’s tip-in kept Cantu in control. A two-handed slam by Tyus punctuated Cantu’s first-half dominance. Issa made 3 free throws over the next two possessions, but missed 2 more and Aradori hit a sweet shot to make it 44-28 at the half.
Aradori had the lead up to 18 early in the third quarter, but Le Mans was not ready to throw in the towel. Sy converted a basket-plus-foul and Victor dunked in a miss to narrow the gap to 13. Smith hit right back with a triple, but Cusin soon took a seat with 4 fouls and Le Mans continued to play with a fire. Batista scored a second-chance basket and after Brooks picked up his fourth foul on the offensive end, Long made it 52-40 midway through the quarter. Issa brought Le Mans within 10 before Cantu called for timeout. El Amin capped a 0-8 Le Mans run, but after Cantu deflected Le Mans’s push, Tabu and Nicolas Mazzarino hit back-to-back three-pointers to re-extend the lead to 58-44. Leunen fired in a long jumper and then a triple for an 11-0 surge. The Cantu fans celebrated in the aisles as Tabu completed a wild play with a layup for Cantu’s first 20-point lead, 65-44, through three quarters.
Leunen added another score to cap a 15-0 run. Batista and El-Amin continued playing for pride, but as Cusin converted a basket-plus-foul, the outcome was looking clear. Charles Kahudi opened some eyes with a rare four-point play. But Cantu was content to trade baskets and Markoshvili followed with a three-point play. Batista gave Le Mans a bit of hope, scoring to get within 73-59, but another Leunen triple and a Cusin jumper settled any doubts. The Cantu chorus sang away the closing minutes in anticipation of another season with Europe’s best in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague.
Friday, September 28, 2012