| The worst combination of results took place on Tuesday night for hosting Spartak St. Petersburg, as the Russian team fell at home against Bizkaia Bilbao Basket by 88-89 after overtime. The team's other option to clinch a Last 16 spot from Group E was that Turk Telekom fell in Belgium against Spirou Basket, but the Turkish team prevailed and smashed Spartak's hopes for the second round. With these results, Bilbao, already a Group E champ since last week, finishes the regular season with a perfect 6-0 record, while Spartak ends with a 3-3, not good enough to beat Turk Telekom's 3-3 on the tiebreakers comparison. Now, Bilbao will fall into Group K, together with Panellinios BC, Benetton Basket and Brose Baskets. On the other hand, Turk Telekom will be in Group L with Crvena Zvezda, CEZ Nymburk and Gran Canaria 2014. Bilbao dominated most of the game but Spartak came back late in the game and free throws by Levance Fields, who missed one of three, sent the game into overtime. In there, it all came to the last play as Fields missed the decisive shot that would have given Spartak the chance to play in the Last 16. Alex Mumbru led the winners with 26 points, Janis Blums added 14, Chris Warren bagged 13 and Salva Guardia posted 12. For Spartak, Fields had 19 points, Yehor Meshcharakou chipped in with 16, Milovan Rakovic added 14 and both James White and Goran Suton posted 11.
Chris Warren and Levan Fields traded free throws for both teams to start the game. But from here, a 2-10 run by Bilbao Basket capped by Marko Banic free throws allowed the guests to start dominating. Yahor
Meshcharakou reacted for Spartak with a three, and he soon added a bucket to get his team going. Salva Guardia and Damir Markota combined in offense to maintain Bilbao ahead, but Aleksey Zozulin added a new
three to avoid major complications. It was 18-21 for the guests after 10 minutes. Offenses had a hard time in the starting minutes of the second quarter as defenses worked at full power. After 4 minutes into
the period it was only 22-25 when Guardia made a free throw. Bilbao was dominating under the boards with no opposition, and it was Spartak's efficiency from the arc what kept the hosts in the game at this
point. Meshcharakou, the main man in offense for Spartak, kept the ball rolling, but Alex Mumbru's three-point play put Bilbao at a 24-30 lead. Guardia and Janis Blums were maintaining Bilbao at a safe
distance now, but Evgeny Kolesnikov gave some ait to Spartak with free throws. Zakhar Pashutin couldn't hav chosen a better time to blast his three as it left Spartak at an affordable distance, 34-41, to
face the second half.
A 4-0 to start the second half allowed Spartak to trim the deficit a little, 38-41. But threes by Mumbru and Warren kept Bilbao going at a safe distance. Mumbru was the go-to guy in offense for the guests in
this period as baskets came scarce for both sides. Pashutin appeared again with three golden points for Spartak, as the hosts were now trauiling by differences around the 3 points: 53-55 in minute 29 and
55-59 after Mumbru's free throws to close the third period. Goran Suton started Spartak's scoring in the last period, but again, Guardia's free throws came down to Bilbao's rescue. Meshcharakou knew that
time was running off for his team and appeared with a new three to make it a one-point game, 60-61, but a 2-6 run for Bilbao put thing back in place, entering minute 35. Suton didn't give up for Spartak but
Markota's three smashed the hosts' hopes one more time. Despite dominating in rebounds, two-point shots and triples, Bilbao's efficiency from the charity line was proving decisive in these final moments.
Suton and Mumbru traded triples for 69-74 and then James White dunked to trim the deficit by two more points and he soon blasted a three that tied the game, 74-74, as the game entered the last minute and
Spartak held onto its dream. Mumbru stepped up to score for Bilbao but Meshcharakou tied again 76-76. With time for only one play, Markota missed two free throws and in the other end, ields did the same with
a three. With just seconds to be played, Fields missed a layup this time and Suton fouled on Javi Rodriguez, who scored bith free throws, 76-78. A last timeout for Spartak to plan the last play, Fields tried
again from the arc, but Rodriguez fouled on him. He missed one of the free throws making it 78-78 when the buzzer sounded, therefore sending the game into overtime.
The extra session started with more Bilbao free throws by Banic. White and Fields appeared with a 4-0 run to put the hosts in command, 82-80, but Warren's three gave som air to Bilbao one more time. Milvan
Rakovic's layups tied the game twice: 84-84 and 86-86. Mumbru only hit one of two free throws and when Fields hit both, Spartak was looking at the last seconds leading by one, 88-87. After Bilbao's timeout,
Mumbru earned a new trip to the foul line after Zozulin's foul, but he had to leave the court injured. Renaldas Seibutis stepped in from the bench to hit both free throws that put Bilbao ahead again, 88-89,
forcing a new Spartak timeout. Fields missed the last shot and Warren grabbed the rebound securing Bilbao's win, and leaving Spartak with no Last 16 prize.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010