Alba Berlin reached the Euroleague Top 16 for the first time in club history despite losing its final Group C match 67-59 at home against Union Olimpija. Berlin dropped to 4-6 in the regular season and was forced to wait after its final whistle to watch Tau Ceramica beat DKV Joventut and secure Alba's berth in the next round. Joventut also finished 4-6 but Alba won both their games together and therefore the first tie-break between them. Alba became the second club in German history to advance from the Euroleague's first round after Bamberg did it in 2005-06. Olimpija had already been eliminated from the Top 16 but improved to 2-8 with both victories against Alba. A 10-0 first-quarter run gave Alba early control of the game, but the hosts struggled to close during the middle quarters. Olimpija used a 2-8 spurt to lead by a point at halftime and a 1-9 late third-quarter surge for a two-point lead it never gave up. Comng off the bench, Vladimir Golubovic led the winners with 21 points on 7-for-7 two-point shooting and grabbed 8 rebounds. Miha Zupan scored 12 of his 14 points in the decisive 5-18 run spanning the third and fourth quarters. Immanuel McElroy paced Alba with 13 points while Adam Chubb added 12. Three-point shooting proved key to the result as Olimpija canned 9 of 19 attempts from deep while Alba made only 2 of 10.
Mirza Begic opened the scoring after a spin move in the lane. But Chubb answered with a jumper at the other end. Begic's foul shot made it 2-3 before Alba went on an early run. Begic initially blocked a shot but Union turned the ball over and Casey Jacobsen drained a triple from the left corner. McElroy came off a pick to knock down a three-point shot of his own and Ansu Sesay's jumper completed the 10-0 run for a 12-3 lead. But Olimpija went to its big men to get back into the game. Begic hit inside to stop the run and Golubovic put back an offensive rebound and hit another easy basket and the lead was just 12-9. Aleksandar Nadjfeji cut into the lane for a layup but Saso Ozbolt hit a triple and Golubovic's foul shot made it 14-13. Nadjfeji drove the baseline for a dunk to finish the first quarter with Alba up 16-13.
Marko Milic used the glass on a layup for the first basket of the second quarter. And Olimpija knotted it at 18-18 on a triple by Damjan Rudez. Chubb hit two foul shots and then Julius Jenkins blew by his defender and threw down a powerful dunk to make it 22-18. Rudez though answered again with a three-point shot and his long two-point jumper left Union down just 24-23. Rashad Wright hit a tough driving layup and Jenkins got a couple lucky bounces on a mid-range jumper to give Alba a 28-23 advantage. Mirza Sarajlija answered with a long two and then back-to-back triples - the second Jasmin Hukic's long buzzer-beater which went off the glass - sent Olimpija to the locker-room ahead 30-31.
Chubb opened the second half after a fine pass from Wright and McElroy hit two straight baskets, the second a break-away layup after a Sesay block to make it 36-31 as Alba was picking up its defensive intensity. Junior Harrington's jumper finally got Olimpija on the board and Golubovic's free throw cut the deficit to 36-35. After a long two by Golubovic, Chubb answered with a follow dunk to make it 40-37. Two McElroy free throws pushed the margin to 42-38. But Zupan hit a big triple from the right corner. Zupan then came back down and nailed a three-point shot from the left wing to give Union the lead 43-44. Jenkins surprisingly missed two foul shots before Golubovic hit three from the foul line for a 43-47 lead, finishing the 1-9 run with Nadjfeji's inside layup off the glass pulling Alba within 45-47 going into the fourth.
Harrington pushed the gap to 45-50 with a three-point shot to start the final period. After a Jenkins layup, Zupan continued his hot stretch by hitting a jumper and converting the three-point play. Zupan then drained another trey from the right wing for a 47-56 advantage, completing the 5-18 run spanning the final two periods. Jenkins made a free throw to stop the run and Chubb converted a three-point play to bring Alba within 51-56. Zupan however answered with a long two from the left side before Chubb, Jacobsen and Wright all made just one of two foul shots in trimming the deficit to 54-58. And Golubovic finished a three-point play to re-establish a 7-point gap - 54-61. Wright's three-point play on a tough layup brought Alba within 57-62. But Hukic nailed a big triple and Golubovic's offensive rebound put-back finished off the night.
Thursday, January 15, 2009