Unicaja Malaga missed a few heartbeats before outlasting defendning champion Lietuvos Rytas in overtime 60-58 in a Group C thriller on the first day of play at the Ciutat de L'Hospitalet tournament in L'Hospitalet, Spain. On Tuesday, Unicaja plays Caja Canarias at noon local time and L. Rytas also plays Caja Canarias in the last game of the day. The winner of the group will grab a seat in semi-finals and a chance to win the tournament, which comes with the second ticket to the Nike International Junior Tournament during the 2010 Euroleague Final Four in Paris next May. A close game from tipoff to buzzer saw Unicaja's Miki Servera force the extra period with a long-distance shot in the closing seconds. Tautvydas Sabonis, son of the legendary center from Lithuania, made the winning basket in overtime although Tadas Mazelis of L. Rytas shot a three-pointer to try to change that. It missed, however, as did his previous 10 attempts from the arc. Servera was the only double-digit scorer for Unicaja, piling up more than one-third of his team's total with 22 points, all after halftime. For L. Rytas, center Jonas Valanciunas dominated as expected with 18 points, 24 rebounds and 8 blocks. Paulius Semaska followed him with 15 points. Thanks to Valanciunas, L. Rytas dominated the boards 55-38 but lost the game at the three-point line, where its players made just 3 of 19 attempts, including the aforementioned last shot.
It took L. Rytas a full 5 minutes to score its first points in the game, but didn't score a field goal until right before the first buzzer. Lucky for the Lithuanians, Unicaja had its own trouble finding the net, and after 10 minutes the score was 10-8 in favor of Unicaja. Rimvydas Brencius scored a three-pointer for L. Rytas to give his team its first lead during a 3-13 run. Valanciunas dominated the boards which allowed L. Rytas to stay ahead and enter the break up by a comfortable 19-26 margin. L. Rytas managed to add a bit more edge and soon held a nine-point lead already, but that's when Severa start to warm up. No sooner did the Spanish guard score his first points all night than he added back-to-back three-pointers and a dunk to reach 10 individual points and tie the score. After 5 minutes in which Severa was the only player to score for Unicaja, big man Malick Fall strung together points and tried to match the dominance of Valanciunas under on the glass. The teams entered the closing quarter neck-to-neck and while Valanciunas didn't find much offensive production, he ruled the other end with rebounds and blocks. Semaska rolled in a three-ball and Valancinuas finally scored a field goal to open a five.point gap for L. Rytas inside the last 2 minutes, 57-62. Servera scored his first points since the third quarter run, and with the seconds ticking down released a big shot from the arc to tie the score 53-53 and send the teams to an extra period. The first minutes in the extended time recalled the first-quarter drought as both teams managed only a bucket each in the first 3 minutes. Once again it was Severa with a clutch basket-plus-free throw that give his team a 58-57 lead. Semaska tied at the other side, only to see Servera answer with another single point from the foul line. Unicaja stole the next ball which allowed Sabonis to double to gap. That left the gutsy Mazelis to try and win the game from the long range after missing 10 attempts before, but this shot missed as well and Unicaja had a big win to start the tourney.
Monday, January 4, 2010