A debut to be remembered was had as Chorale Roanne returned to Europe's top competition after almost 50 years with a huge 61-64 road win in Group A against Brose Baskets on Thursday in Bamberg, Germany. The team's success was marked by the equally special debut of guard Brion Rush, who drilled 4 three-pointers in the first quarter for Roanne, but saved an extra shot from downtown to decide the outcome with time running out. Rush led the winners with 21 points, while Marc Salyers added 14 and Pape Badiane ripped down 11 rebounds. For Bamberg, the big gun was Ademola Okulaja, whose 17 points and 7 rebounds led the hosts. Demond Greene added 13 points for Bamberg and Steffen Hamann 11. Okulaja hit the game-tying basket at 61-61 with 22 seconds left that completed a 16-point fourth-quarter comeback for Bamberg. But that left too much time for Rush to get to the corner and drill the deciding shot for the visitors.
Okulaja started the scoring with a three-pointer for Bamberg, but Rush liked the idea and answered with his first from long range to even the game for Roanne. With the score tied 5-5, Rush really got in the shooting rhythm, blasting his second and third shots from downtown, putting the French champs ahead at 5-11. He soon had company, too, as yet another triple rolled of the hand of Salyers to make it 5-14. Bamberg head coach Dirk Bauermann had seen enough and called a timeout, after with Demond Greene's triple stopped the home team's slide. Marc-Antoine Pellin answered with a long jumper that made it 10-16, but after that the defenses took over for the last 4 minutes of the quarter. The only one to break through them again was none other than Rush, with his fourth three-pointer already, just before the buzzer, putting Roanne in front by 10-19 after 10 minutes.
Bamberg committed 5 turnovers in the first quarter and its ball-handling problems continued in the second. Chris Ensminger got a foul shot in for the hosts, which was worth something in what was already a slow-scoring game. Still, Roanne was able to build its lead to 13 points at 11-24 and 13-26 as Bamberg gave up the ball six times in seven trips down the court. After a Predrag Suput trey, Norman Nolan converted a three-point play as Roanne retained its 16-29 advantage. But Okulaja's back-to-back jumpers and a Steffen Hamann layup trimmed the margin to 22-29. Now it was Roanne head coach Jean Delys Choulet calling a timeout with about 3 minutes left until halftime. Free throws by Greene and Hamann completed the 9-0 run for Bamberg, sending the teams into the locker-rooms with Roanne leading 25-29.
Greene opened the second half with an inside basket to pull the hosts to within 27-29. But Badiane's jumper opened the gap back to 6 points, 27-33, for Roanne. Darren Fenn drained a three-pointer to trim the deficit again for Bamberg, only to see Salyers score on a break-away dunk and an offensive rebound. Soon, Laurent Cazalon's break-away layup pushed the Roanne advantage to 34-42 and it hit a new high of 12 points, at 36-48, on Salyers' inside layin. Hamann's foul shot just before the third quarter buzzer left visitors in charge at 39-50.
Nolan's jumper early in the fourth quarter gave Roanne the biggest lead of the game, 39-55, but also set up a major rally by the hosts. Bauermann's troops were spurned on by the Jako Arena crowd as Mark Dickel hit a three-pointer and a break-away layup. Greene followed with 3 foul shots that sliced the difference to 49-55 with 6 minutes remaining. When Hamann hit a fall-away three-pointer with the shot-clock winding down and Greene canned his own triple from the corner, it was a whole new ballgame, 55-57 with 4 minutes left. Both teams looked nervous now, as Adam Hess missed 3 of 3 free throws for Roanne and Hamann both of his for Bamberg. Okulaja twice pulled the hosts to within a single point - 57-58 and 59-60 - and then the veteran forward scored to finally even the game at 61-61 with 22 seconds left. After Bamberg had fought all the way back to tie the game, the first-quarter hero for Roanne reappeared. Rush again was the killer at the finish, too, draining a three-pointer from the right wing for the 61-64 victory, and historic debut for Chorale Roanne.
Thursday, October 25, 2007