| Cedevita Zagreb defeated Asefa Estudiantes 90-81 Wednesday night at the Drazen Petrovic Basketball Center in the Croatian capital to get within one step of the Eurocup Finals in Treviso. The 9-point win by Cedevita means Estudiantes will have to make up the difference next Wednesday in Madrid for the second and definitive quarterfinals game between the teams. The hosts trailed by double figures in the first half, but took over in the third quarter and held on for a crucial win. Cedevita’s victory was its 5th in a row in the competition and broke a 3-game winning streak for Estu. Forward Damjan Rudez paced the winners with 21 points, while point guard Dontaye Draper added 20 to go with 5 assists and 3 steals, Marino Bazdaric scored 14 and Vedran Vukusic 10. The visitors were led by Nik Caner-Medlay’s 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Sergio Sanchez added 13 points and German Gabriel scored 11 and grabbed 9 boards in defeat. Game 2 will be played next Wednesday night at the Palacio Vistalegre in Madrid.
Draper started the game at full speed with a layup and triple and Cedevita quickly demonstrated why it finished No. 1 in three-point shooting in the Last 16 as Rudez added another before Caner-Medley and Sergio Sanchez answered from long range for Estudiantes. The visitors showed they could dance with the hosts’ up-tempo game and capped a 4-11 run with a Josh Asselin dunk and Jayson Granger penetration layup before Rudez scored on a running hook to set the score at 16-21. In what was expected to be a wide-open game, Caner-Medley provided some interior toughness for Estudiantes and he and Sanchez scored on back-to-back three-point plays before Granger assisted Tyrone Ellis on a fasbreak layup. Draper swished a triple to close the quarter at 21-33 after a couple of Caner-Medley free throws as time expired.
Cedevita went inside early to start the second quarter and found Franko Kastropil on a backdoor cut for an easy two-pointer. But Estudiantes countered by getting Gabriel involved in the paint, as the Spanish team kept the hosts at bay with Hernan Jasen’s first bucket of the night, a step-in triple, and a Caner-Medley layup to stretch the lead to 23-40. Cedevita kept moving the ball crisply on offense, but the open perimeter looks weren’t falling, while head coach Luis Casimiro’s crew capitalized on a more-balanced attack with good positioning and passing near the rim. The hosts finally nailed consecutive long-range bombs by Robert Troha and Rudez, and added a Vedran Princ layup to close in at 35-45. Suddenly, Estudiantes was having trouble scoring against Cedevita’s tight defensive, and the hosts strung 10 unanswered points to get to within 5 before Gabriel hit a cutting Jiri Welsch for a basket. The Croatian squad finally got to the line on a Vukusic drive, and the forward capitalized to make it a one-possession game before Troha added another free throw to reach halftime at 47-49.
Marino Bazdaric finally hit the bottom of the net with a triple after the break and with the game within reach Cedevita seemed to settle down and play more patiently on offense. Draper put them back in the driver’s seat for the first time since the opening quarter with a couple of free throws in a 10-0 run. Sanchez again answered the call for the visitors with a much-needed three-pointer, but Aca Petrovic’s crew was determined not to let the lead slip away and combined its perimeter shooting with persistent basket penetration by the likes of Vukusic and Rudez. Draper dropped a long-range bomb with a hand in his face to make it a double-digit lead at 64-54 and Bazdaric made it a 12-point affair before Jasen closed the 9-0 run with a jumper. The visitors tried to counter the Cedevita offensive barrage with some inside looks, but Cedevita sealed the paint and only Caner-Medley gave his team a spark with a gutsy three-point play before the Jasen fouled out with his 5th personal and the final quarter was reached at 76-61 after a 29-12 trouncing by Cedevita in the period.
With 10 minutes to go, Estudiantes tried to slow the game down in order to keep the result in the low-scoring numbers with hopes to make up the difference in the return game in Madrid. As Cedevita keyed in on Gabriel in the post, Ellis dropped a triple and 4 quick points by Albert Oliver made for a 7-12 start that forced Petrovic to use a timeout. A spectacular diving layup by Bracey Wright got the home crowd on its feet again, as the teams traded blows, with Gabriel finally dropped a turnaround and Asselin converted on a gorgeous no-look pass from Welsch to get the visitors within 82-74 at the 3:30 mark. With Luis Casimiro’s crew managing to control the tempo in the final quarter, Cedevita struggled to heat up again until Tomislav Petrovic swished a corner three-pointer and Draper scored on a beautiful bank-in penetration bucket to put his team ahead, 88-79 in the game’s final minute. With Game 2 looming, both contenders focused on getting maximum results from their last possessions, but only Rudez was able to hit the bottom of the net on a long two-pointer, and the stage was set for the definitive game with Cedevita arriving with a 9-point edge.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011