Pamesa advances despite loss!
A defeat was never more of a victory than on Tuesday night as Pamesa Valencia advanced to the finals of the ULEB Cup over Adecco Estudiantes and its 14,000 fans despite ending on the wrong end of 75-68 decision in Madrid. Holding ultra-hot Estudiantes to an eight-point victory in the second game of their semifinal meant that Pamesa's 13-point victory in their first game put it through to fight for the first ULEB Cup title. Now, Pamesa will face Krka Novo Mesto of Slovenia in the two-game final. The first game is April 15 in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, the second on April 24 in Valencia. On a night when points were scarce, center Fabricio Oberto led the winners with 19. Nikola Loncar led Estudiantes with 15 points and his 3 consecutive triples 5 minutes before the buzzer put Estudiantes ahead by 16. But Pamesa reacted with a 1-10 run that included points by Dejan Tomasevic, who left the hospital a day earlier in order to play in the game. Federico Kammerichs added 10 points for the winners Montecchia 9. For Estudiantes, Nikola Loncar scored 15, Hernan Jasen 14, Adam Keefe and Corey Brewer 11 each.
Estudiantes had started with a flurry, taking a 9-4 lead in the first quarter. With their 14,000 fans ready to rock and roll, the hosts started by making 4 of 5 shots, including a three-pointer by Nacho Azofra. Pamesa coach Paco Olmos had decided to use Tomasevic in the starting lineup despite the fact that two nights earlier, doctors had suggested the veteran center needed to be operated on for appendicitis. Early on, however, Pamesa's go-to guy was forward Victor Luengo, who hit a key three-pointer to stop the first attempt to escape by Estudiantes. After the initial fireworks, the defenses locked in and forced inside and perimeter mistakes on both teams. Despite bad 2-for-9 shooting, Pamesa stayed int the game and kept the tempo slow as Oberto came alive with a dunk. Then, on a three pointer nailed by Nacho Rodilla, Pamesa completed a 2-8 run to lead 11-12. But Estudiantes had good inside contributions by Adam Keefe and Carlos Jimenez, who helped re-take a 15-12 advantage. Kammerichs stepped in with a pair of free throws for Pamesa, but Corey Brewer stepped off the bench for a steal that sent Jimenez for an uncontested dunk and a 17-14 Estudiantes advantage after 10 minutes.
Estudiantes came back in the second quarter looking for more points, and Hernan Jasen hit a triple on the first possession to make it 20-14. Pamesa missed a couple of forced shots, while Keefe converted free throws and scored inside to give Estudiantes a first double-digits lead at 24-14. Jose Antonio Paraiso scored the first basket for Pamesa in the second quarter after 4 minutes, but Brewer responded with a three to make it 27-16. Pamesa was still struggling on offense (5 for 19, 26%), and only Paraiso helped avert a heavier slide. Montecchia hit an important three and Oberto added a lay up to give Pamesa a push to 29-23. Estudiantes remained hot, however, Jimenez, Jasen and Brewer boosted the lead back to 10 points, 35-25. Robles cut the gap to 36-30 from downtown, but Jasen's layup send Estudiantes to the lockers with a healthy 38-30 edge through half a game.
Estudiantes reloaded after halftime as Brewer's 5 points made it 46-33, the equivalent of a tie series. Asier Garcia hit a key jumper for Pamesa but 4 points in a row by Loncar made it 52-38. Pamesa was shocked, but Montecchia found a a triple for 52-41, but Jasen matched it for 55-41 after 29 minutes. Garcia now responded with his own three, then Loncar sank a layup, but Kammerichs at the buzzer hit a huge three.pointer that closed a dramatic quarter with Estudiantes ahead by just 10 points, 57-47.
Pushed by the jam-packed crowd at Vistalegre arena, Estudiantes started the final quarter with a 5-0 run as Loncar's triple marked the game's highest lead 62-47. Even when Oberto scored 3 points himself, Loncar hit another to sustain the difference at 65-50. Oberto was taking all responsibility for Pamesa on his shoulders, but Loncar's third straight triple seemed to put Estudiantes in the clear at 68-52 with 5 minutes left to play. Not so. Pamesa came out of a timeout with a three by Robles, and when Tomasevic added a layup plus free throw, the difference was again in Pamesa's favor, 69-58. Tomasevic was the man of the moment. He took a rebound, was fouled and converted both free throws for 69-60, while Montecchia followed with 2 more from the line to complete the 1-10 run. Brewer gave hope to his tea with a layup and Reyes scored on the break for 73-62 with little more than 1 minute to play. Kammerichs and Tomasevic made the key baskets around the last minute while Nacho Azofra missed 2 of 4 free throws for Estudiantes. When Rodilla caught a loose ball, was fouled and hit both free throws, the difference was down to 75-68 with little time left. Pamesa could start celebrating its passage to the ULEB Cup finals.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003