A favorite playing on the road got its mettle tested but finally prevailed Tuesday as Pamesa Valencia's depth outdid RheinEnergie's homecourt advantage in Cologne, Germany by 72-76 in the first of their two-game series. With four players who would be starters elswhere pouring off the bench in the second quarter, Pamesa turned an eight-point deficit into a 10-point halftime lead on the strength of a huge 5-23 run over 7 minutes. Alessandro Abbio was the catalyst of that turnaround and finished by leading the winners with 22 points. Federico Kammerichs added 14 and Fabricio Oberto 10 for Pamesa. All of which was needed to hold back RheinEnergie, and especially its leader, Sasa Obradovic, on their home floor. Obradovic poured in 27 points for the German team, while Zoran Kukic added 14 and Clint Harrison 10. At the rematch next week in Valencia, RheinEnergie needs to win by more than 4 points to advance.
With a good atmopshere in the Energy Dome, Cologne started the game with more intensity than Pamesa, as a trio of three-pointers - a pair by Clint Harrison and another by Stephen Arigbabu - put the hosts haead 13-2. The reaction for Pamesa came courtesy of Federico Kammerichs, who scored 7 points as the Spanish League leaders scratched back to within 14-15. Obradovic stopped the run there with a triple, but Dejan Tomasevic hit a free throw to make it 17-16. In the final minute, however, Zoran Kukic sent in a layup and Obradovic hit another from downtown as time expired for a 22-16 RheinEnergie lead.
In the second quarter, Abbio, Jose Paraiso, Alejandro Montecchia and Bernard Hopkins rose from the bench for Pamesa, and gradually the game of the visitors changed in purpose and direction. The guests improved their defense by simply closing RheinEnergie's way to the basket after Dragan Tomic's basket had put the locals ahead 24-16. The points were precious for RheinEnergie thereafter. Meanwhile, Paraiso drained a three and Abbio caught fire for Pamesa with 5 consecutive points to tie the game, 24-24. Harrison gave his team a rescue with a triple of his own. Put now Hopkins got loose inside and within a couple minutes, Montecchia was popping from downtown for a Pamesa lead at 29-31. RheinEnergie seems momentarily stunned as it ceded the last 8 points of the quarter, too. It amounted to a 5-23 run over the 7 minutes before the break, by which time Pamesa was ahead by 10 points, 29-39.
After resumption, this trend became more self-evident. Abbio, Montecchia and Paraiso punished Cologne again from the 6.25 line and took the guests towards their maximum lead, 33-50 in minute 25. But not all things went perfectly for the guests, as foul trouble was a constant threat and the zone defenses of RheinEnergie stalled Pamesa's offense. That, in turn, eased the reaction of RheinEnergie, which would finish the quarter with a 20-7 run led by Obradovic and Vladimir Bogojevic that left the scoreboard at 53-57 after 3 quarters. Then, in the fourth quarter, the German hosts scored the first basket to pull within 2 points and finally tied the game some minutes later. Pamesa wasjust unable to stop Obradovic, but who should return at the end but Abbio, seconded by Kammerichs and Oberto, to steer Pamesa to victory in the last minutes and send them home to their fortress in Valencia with no bigger necessity than to avoid losing by 4 or more points.
Tuesday, February 4, 2003