Pallacanestro Cantu advanced to the second stage of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Qualifying Rounds and now stands two wins away from realizing its dream of returning to elite competition after holding off Lukoil Academic Sofia 87-79 Tuesday in Desio, Italy. Newcomers Alex Tyus scored 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting and Jerry Smith shined with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals to lead the host team. Cantu used a 13-2 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to take the lead for good, but needed to work in the end after a pair of Brandon Heath three-pointers brought Sofia within 3. But a combined 3 free throws from Tyus and Smith in the final minute iced the win. Manu Markoishvili added 15 points and Marco Cusin and Pietro Aradori netted 12 apiece for the winners. Cusin also blocked 4 shots. Heath scored 21 and dished 5 assists, while Darryl Watkins posted 18 points and 15 rebounds and Bozhidar Avramov added 14 points for Sofia, which will now compete in the 2012-13 Eurocup.
Sofia opened the scoring as Heath penetrated and fed Watkins for a two-handed slam, but Cantu reacted quickly as Maarty Leunen drained a three. Cantu surged ahead 9-4 through Cusin inside and a fast break slam by Markoishvili. Watkins scored from the line, but Smith’s basket-plus-foul lifted Cantu to 12-6. Sofia kept it close on jumpers by Devin Green and Watkins. Green later finished a fast break with a layup that cut the deficit to 15-14. A tip-in by Cusin and a three-pointer from Jonathan Tabu pushed Cantu to a 5-point edge. Academic got back within 1 on a Heath free throws, but a pair of Tyus slams and a block on the defensive end kept Cantu in control. But Thomas Massamba converted a basket-plus foul in the closing seconds of the opening quarter as Lukoil crept within 26-25.
Massamba returned the lead to Sofia with a three top open the second quarter. Tyus soared for another basket, but Sofia got going as Tencho Banev scored on the offensive glass and veteran Todor Stoykov drained a three to make it 29-33. Mohamed Abukar converted a three-point play and Heath fed Watkins for a slam as the Sofia lead grew some more, 31-38. Jerry Smith stepped up for Cantu with a jumper and a drive to bring the hosts within 38-40. Markoishvili tied it with a foul-line jumper and Smith put Cantu back on top with a steal and dunk, capping a 10-2 run. Watkins impressed with a score while falling over, but a pair of Markoishvili baskets put Cantu back ahead and Green added only 1 free throw for Sofia in the closing seconds to make it 48-47 at the break.
Cantu came out strong for the second half as Pietro Aradori sank a jumper, Smith soared for a tip-in and Cusin rose a block on defense. Watkins threw down a vicious slam, but Aradori countered with a three for a 55-49 lead. Green fired in a three and Leunen was called for an unsportsmanlike foul while stopping Watkins in the paint. Avramov drove for a layup and then scored again to put his team ahead 55-56. Abukar capped a 0-9 run with a jumper. Tyus scored on the offensive glass and Markoishvili restored the Cantu lead from the line. A big Nicolas Mazzarino triple completed a 9-0 run for the hosts. Heath ended the Sofia drought with 2 free throws to make it 64-60 through three quarters.
Mazzarino pulled up for a clutch triple and Cusin, who was fouled trying to dunk, made it 68-60 from the line. Stoykov scored a baby hook from the left baseline, but Cusin bettered him with a tip-in-plus foul. The foul was Stoykov’s fifth and the points left Cantu ahead by 9. Baskets by Heath and Avramov kept Sofia alive at 71-66 midway through the fourth quarter. Tyus pushed Cantu right back ahead with a pair of baskets inside. Avramov hit back from downtown, however another Tyus scored kept the local fans happy. Heath kept the Sofia crew fighting with a triple, 80-74, with 2:18 to play. He added another to make it a 3-point game. Leunen gave Cantu a bit of a cushion with 2 free throws only to see Watkins score on a tip-in at the other end. Tyus lifted Canto to a two-possession lead, 83-79, after a free throw with 45 seconds to go. And when Abukar missed a three and Smith scored twice from the line, the outcome was known before the final buzzer.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012