Benetton Gioco Digitale made it to the Euroleague second qualifying rounds by downing BK Ventspils 88-76 in Treviso, Italy on Friday night. Benetton arrived to Game 2 of this first qualifying round with a five-point deficit but managed to reach the next round, in which the Italian powerhouse is set to face Entente Orleanaise for a Euroleague regular season spot. Meanwhile, Ventspils is set to play its sixth Eurocup season in the last seven years. Ventspils lost the chance to become the first Latvian team to play the Euroleague regular season since 1961. Daniel Hackett led the winners with 22 points. Gary Neal added 15, Sandro Nicevic had 14 while CJ Wallace got 12 for Benetton. Dairis Bertans and Mareks Jurevicus each had 16 points for Ventspils. Janis Strelnieks added 15, Aaron Pettway 13 and Rolands Zakis 11. Wallace and Nicevic allowed Benetton to overcame an early deficit and get a 25-20 edge afte 10 minutes. Jasmin Hukic stepped up to make it a 13-point game, 38-25. Bertans and Jurevicus allowed Ventspils to stay in the game and stay within 61-54 late in the third quarter. Hackett and Neal stepped up in crunch time for a 77-63 Benetton lead with under 4 minutes to go. Ventspils managed to get within 79-70 on a three-point play by Pettway but back-to-back triples by an outstanding Hackett sealed the outcome down the stretch.
Wallace needed 10 seconds with a backdoor layup that Cartier Martin followed with a power basket for a 4-2 Benetton lead. Zakis stepped up with a wide open triple and free throws while Strelnieks added his own shot from downtown to give Ventspils a 6-10 edge. Benetton kept feeding its big man, as Wallace and Nicevic combined for all points in a 7-2 run that made the hosts regain the lead, 13-12. Pettway took over with a wild dunk-and-foul but a layup by Wallace tied the game again, 15-15. Hackett sank free throws that Neal followed with a step-back jumper, as Ventspils failed to get Pettway involved. Bertans shined with a seven-meter bomb but Wallace got the crowd involved with a left-handed jump hook. Hackett and Donatas Motiejunas hit free throws but a layup by Jurevicus tied the series, 25-20, at the end of a fast-paced first quarter.
A three-pointer by Hukic and a layup-plus-foul by an outstanding Hackett gave Benetton a nine-point lead, 31-22, early in the second quarter. Martins Berkins and Davor Kus traded triples, as Benetton kept trying to play up-tempo. Nicevic buried his trademark jumper while Hukic scored in the low post to boost the hosts' margin to 38-25. Zakis hit foul shots while a dunk by Bertans brought Ventspils back to life, 38-29. Benetton struggled against the guests' zone defense until Nicevic made free throws on Pettway's third foul. Strelnieks buried a catch-and-shoot jumper that Neal matched with a driving basket. Bertans took over with a wild fallaway jumper and Jurevicus buried one from downtown for a 44-37 Ventspils deficit. Neal scored again while Hackett added a coast-to-coast power layup to give Benetton some fresh air, 48-38. A fast break dunk by Jurevicus and a layup by Daniele Sandri fixed the halftime score at 50-40.
A power layup by Pettway and a long two-pointer by Stelnieks allowed Ventspils to stay in the series, 50-44, immediately after the break. Nicevic tried to get Benetton going with a layup but he didn't find much help around. Ventspils tried to slow down the game tempo while a three-point play by Bertans tied the series at 52-47. Motiejunas shined with a put-back layup while Martin added a big three-pointers but free throws by Bertans and Jurevicus kept Benetton within 57-51. Hackett fed Neal for an easy layup and then scored in transition but Bertans silenced the crowd with a bomb from downtown, 61-54. Motiejunas scored around the basket that Strenieks erased with an off-balance jumper. Martin kept pacing Benetton with foul shots that Stelnieks matched with a fast break layup. More free throws by Neal allowed Benetton to keep a 67-59 margin after 30 minutes.
Ventspils could not find the way to the basket early in the fourth quarter, while a fast break layup by Hackett restored a double-digit Benetton edge, 69-59. Zakis rescued the guests with free throws but Ventspils kept missing open shots. Pettway missed an uncontested dunk that allowed Neal to sink a critical triple that made it a 12-point game, 73-61, with 6 minutes remaining. Pettway and Neal traded layups but Ventspils could not find its scoring rhythm against the hosts' aggressive man-to-man defense. Benetton had opted to use long possessions and free throws by Andrea Renzi kept his team out of trouble, 77-63. Jurevicus, however, sank a tough jumper, igniting a 0-7 run that Pettway capped with a three-point play to bring Ventspils within 79-70 with under 2 minutes to go. Hackett beat the shot clock buzzer with a huge corner triple and soon added another bomb from downtown that allowed all Benetton fans to celebrate that their team will keep fighting to reach the Euroleague!
Friday, October 2, 2009