The duel at the top of Group A between Gravelines and Joventut was what everybody expected, as both teams stayed always close to each other, and despite a third quarter burst by the French team, Joventut was only 4 points down with 5 minutes to go. Gravelines demonstrated in the end that it deserved to win the game and the final result was 88-82 for the hosts. The win puts Gravelines alone atop Group A with a 4-1 record, while Joventut drops to 3-2. Frankie King led the hosts with 20 points, Danny Strong added a double-double of 15 points and 11 boards and Kordian Kortitek and Benoit Georget added 12 each. For the losers, Antonio Bueno was the best man with 16 points and Paco Vazquez and Juan Alberto Espil added 11 apiece.
The game between the two best teams in the group started as expected, with absolute balance on both sides. Neither team got a lead wider than 2 points during the first 10 minutes. Strong was the best man for Gravelines early with 6 points and 4 boards. His jumper had put the hosts ahead 7-6, but Joventut replied with Carles Marco hitting for three as the guests jumped up 14-16. Two free throws by Bouziane tied the score at 16-16. Defenses were tight on both sides, as reflected in an 18-16 scoreboard at the end of the first quarter, the difference coming on a another basket by Strong. The second quarter was also a clash of the titans as King started scoring big and, with the help of Cedric Miller, put Gravelines ahead 37-33. A Joventut timeout brought the desired effect, as Paco Vazquez hit for three on the following play. Both defenses were still strong, and the hosts dominated under the boards with 21 rebounds at halftime against 15 for Joventut. King would take care of the lead of his team scoring again and again for 10 points by the break. Nikola Radulovic scored a three-point play that put his team close again at 40-39, and a final three by Vazquez again in the last minute marked the 42-42 with which the teams hit the locker rooms.
At the start of the third period, Vazquez and Benoit Georget hit for three to follow the trend of the second, but something was wrong with Joventut, as the guests were not able to take advantage of the second options coming off the offensive boards. As a result, Gravelines forged the first double-digit lead with two free ethrows by Kortytek for 59-49. Another 3 by Georget put the lead at 64-51 as the hosts started to pull away with a 10-2 run. King hit 2 more free throws for 68-55 at the end of the third. The last period started as the third had finished, with King scoring 6 straight points for a 74-62 Gravelines lead, but Espil woke up in the last quarter, hitting 9 almost straight points, that put his team in the game again at 78-71 in minute 35. Gravelines was nervous to see the rival coming back, and a couple of turnovers led to a timeout called by the hosts. Nevertheless, one minute later, Maceo Baston left his team at 80-76 with a layup and a free throw. The guests also improved in rebounding, to the point of evening the final numbers at 37-37. But that was the best the Catalans could do, as 3 points by Strong broke the game open in minute 39 for 85-76. Joventut didn't surrender as Radulovic hit for 3, 85-79, but it was too late.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002