Montepaschi Siena became the Group D champion and got the home court advantage in the upcoming best-of-three Quarterfinal Playoffs by thrashing Efes Pilsen 80-67 at home on Wednesday. Montepaschi finished Group D with a 4-2 record and finished first due to his tie-break advantage against Partizan Igokea. Romain Sato led the winners with 25 points on 4-for-5 three-pointers. Terrell McIntyre added 14 and 7 assists while Ben Eze and Bootsy Thornton each had 10 points for Montepaschi. Andre Hutson had 16 points for Efes, Ender Arslan added 11 while Scoonie Penn and Kenny Gregory each got 10 for the guests. Sato helped Montepaschi to overcome an early deficit and get a 20-15 lead after 10 minutes. Sato got some help from Thornton, who led a 13-1 run that allowed the hosts to break the game open, 44-30, at halftime. Efes improved after the break behind Kerem Gonlum and Hutson, but Montepaschi managed to keep a 59-43 margin after 30 minutes. McIntyre took over in the fourth quarter to make Montepaschi seal the outcome long before the final buzzer.
Eze got Montepaschi going with a jump hook that McIntyre followed with a driving layup for a 4-0 lead. Efes went scoreless in the opening 3 minutes, trying to get its big men involved without success. Penn stepped up with a bomb from downtown and soon added another triple to give the guests their first lead, 4-6. Sato joined the three-point shootout but Hutson sank a turnaround jumper to put Efes back ahead, 7-8. Sato fired in his second triple from the right wing and soon added an alleyoop layup for a 12-8 Montepaschi edge. Arslan took over with a driving layup but Sato erased it with a fast break basket in the other end. Gregory and Kerem Gonlum made free throws but Eze scored again for a 16-12 Montepaschi edge. Ksistof Lavrinovic shined with a power layup but Arslan answered from downtown. Free throws by McIntyre gave the hosts a 20-15 lead after 10 minutes.
Arslan collected a steal and took over with a fast break layup to keep Efes in the game, 20-17, early in the second quarter. Drake Diener struck from downtown but Efes kept its momentum going. Hutson made free throws and soon added a power layup to get the guests within 23-21. Diener fired in another three-pointer that made Efes call timeout at 26-21. The guests kept struggling to score until Gonlum had a huge block on Lavrinovic and scored in the other end. Lavrinovic took revenge with a second-chance layup that Hutson erased with a smooth move in the low post. Sato buried his third three-pointer that Lavrinovic followed with a fast break layup for a 33-25 Montepaschi lead. Sato provided a highlight with a fast break dunk and soon added an alleyoop layup to make it a 12-point game, 37-25, after a 9-0 run. Thornton scored in penetration and soon added a fast break basket. Free throws by Hutson, a three-pointer by Thornton and a tip-in by Baris Hersek fixed the halftime score at 44-30.
Hutson tried to ignit the guests' comeback with a two-handed dunk right after the break but Eze shocked everyone with a long two-pointer for a 46-32 Montepaschi lead. Thornton stayed on fire with a corner three-pointer but Hutson dunked it again for a 49-34 Efes deficit. Montepaschi had troubles to score now against Efes' improved defense, while Penn scored in transition to make the hosts call timeout at 49-36. Gregory shined with a put-back layup but Sato answered from downtown to restore a 54-38 Montepaschi margin. Ermal Kuqo found his first basket that McIntyre erased in the other end. Efes tried a zone defense off a timeout while Arslan struck from downtown to get the guests within 56-43. Montepaschi did not panic, however, as Lavrinovic buried one from beyond the arc to give Montepaschi a 16-point lead, 59-43, after three quarters.
Hutson kept pacing Efes early in the fourth quarter but a free throw by Sato still kept Montepaschi way ahead, 60-45. Efes needed a major comeback to keep its options alive and Gregory tried to ignit one with a power layup. Shaun Stonerook buried his trademark fourth-quarter triple while Arslan and Gregory made free throws for a 63-48 Efes deficit. Gonlum shined with a layup-plus-foul while Penn added free throws to give Efes some hope, 64-53, with 6 minutes to go. McIntyre took over with a three-pointer and even when Gonlum sank free throws, McInyre shined again with another bomb from downtown. By the time Stonerook scored in transition, Montepaschi had sealed the outcome, 72-55. McIntyre sealed his outstanding fourth quarter with a layup off a steal, allowing all Montepaschi fans that their team just got closer to return to the Final Four!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008