A battle at the heart of the Group A race for survival went down to the last quarter on Thursday before visiting Efes Pilsen outlasted host Le Mans by 67-71. Efes lifted its record to 6-4 and retained its share of third place in Group A, while Le Mans dropped to 3-7 and sixth place. Horace Jenkins led the winners with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Drew Nicholas added 14 points by making 4 of 7 triples, while Ermal Kuqo also had 14 and Kerem Gonlum added 10. For the hosts, Kenny Gregory had 20 points, Eric Campbell added 14 and Nebojsa Bogavac had 11. The hosts resisted thanks to outstanding three-point shooting, but when the shots started to miss, Efes found enough of a solid lead to survive until the final buzzer.
After a slow start, Nicholas opened the scoring for Efes while Gregory replied with 4 straight points of his own for Le Mans. Jenkins and Campbell traded triples before Nicholas and Bogavac did the same as the score escalated to 10-10 on a layup by Kuqo. The shooting accuracy was off the charts now as Gregory climbed to 8 points himself and Le Mans was hitting 83% of its two-pointers. Efes was nearly as efficient, however, as Kuqo, Nicholas and Jenkins shared all their team's points as the visitors went ahead 14-16. Le Mans answered with a 6-0 run capped by Sandro Nicevic's bucket to take a 20-18 edge after 10 minutes.
Efes hit back with 4 unanswered points to start the second quarter by taking back the lead. Nicolas Batum dunked to revive Le Mans and soon Campbell was able to score to tie the score again at 24-24 after 15 minutes. Nicholas picked up the scoring pace with back-to-back triples for the visitors, although Campbell managed to squeeze his own shot from dowtown in between. Nicevic finished a frantic minute with a fast layup and Gregory added a new three-pointer to tie the score once more, 32-32. The hosts dominated the rebounds battle and excelled from the arc with only a miss in their 5 attempts until then, but Nicholas kep Efes right there. After an Efes timeout, Gonlum made it 34-34, taking the teams into the halftime break as close as when they started the game.
Kuqo opened the second half for Efes with 4 consecutive points before Bogavac resumed Le Mans' three-point assault. Gregory lifted a layup to keep the hosts ahead at 39-38, but Jenkins soon fixed that situation with a triple. Gregory and Nicholas traded new triples after a Campbell dunk as Le Mans stayed in the driver's seat. Le Mans was still shooting great from the arc, as was Nicholas, hitting 4 of 5 triples to that point. Jenkins and Marcus Haislip boosted Efes with straight baskets, but the lead never was solid as Campbell soon made it a one-point game again. However, free throws from Gonlum and Jenkins earned Efes its biggest lead yet, 51-55 after 30 minutes.
The Efes run continued up into the final quarter as Profit blasted a three-pointer to make it 55-62. Alain Koffi looked for an inside basket as the hosts chose the worst moment to start missing from the arc. Koffi was the only scring resource for Le Mans now, and Efes looked inside for Kuqo to maintain a five-point cushion as the game hit minute 35. When Jenkins rose for another three-pointer, it looked as though the momentum belonged fully to Efes at 59-67. But that's when Le Mans reacted with a 6-0 run capped by Yannick Bokolo's triple that made it 65-67. The game was coming to a close and nerves got hold of both teams. After a few misses, Gonlum scored entering minute 39 to let Efes breathe at 65-69. A turnover by Prkacin allowed Gregory to keep Le Mans close at 67-69 entering the last minute. When Bogavac fouled Profit, he dropped both free throws for Efes, meaning that a last-ditch three-pointer by Bogavac would not have hurt even if it fell, which it did not.
Thursday, January 4, 2007