Lietuvos Rytas holds off Ostend to return to Euroleague
Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius claimed the last remaining ticket to the 2013-14 Turkish Airlines Euroleague by holding off Belgian champion Telenet Ostend 75-66 in the final of the Qualifying Rounds tournament at Siemens Arena in the Lithuanian capital. Martynas Gecevicius finished a stellar week with a 19-point effort and Juan Palacios added a double-double for Rytas, which joins Panathinaikos Athens, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Group D of the Euroleague Regular Season. It was an exciting finale to a dramatic week of qualifying games. Ostend struggled in the opening minutes before reeling off 15 unanswered points to take control. Rytas dominated the third quarter and regained the lead. When it seemed all was lost for Ostend, it rallied back to within 4 in the closing minutes, but Rytas stood the test in the final possessions. Palacios finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds, including a game-clinching basket-plus-foul with 37 seconds remaining. Renaldas Seibutis also scored 11 and Eimantas Bendzius added 10. Pierre Antoine Gillet paced Ostend with 16 points and 10 rebounds, Andrija Stipanovic netted 14 and Mateusz Ponitka scored 13 in defeat. Ostend will resume its European campaign this season in the Eurocup.
First quarter: After shaking off nerves, Ostend reels off 15 unanswered points
Palacios opened the scoring down low for the hosts. Omar Cook stripped Dusan Djordjevic in the backcourt and fed Seibutis for a layup before Andreas Glyniadakis boosted the lead to 7-0 from the foul line. It took three-and-a-half minutes before Gillet penetrated for Ostend’s first basket. The visitors finally shook their nerves as a Gillet triple closed the gap to 9-7 midway through the quarter. Jean Salumu fed Stipanovic to tie the game. Another Gillet triple followed by Stipnaovic bucket in transition extended the Ostend run, silenced the crowd and led to a Vilnius timeout. Even after Ponitka’s triple made it 15 unanswered points and gave Ostend a 9-17 advantage. Tautvydas Lideka free throws ended a four-minute scoring drought for Rytas. Ryan Thompson’s first points, a three-pointer, gave his team a 12-22 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Second quarter: Rytas rallies from 12 down to gee within 2
Thompson added a jumper to double Rytas up early in the second quarter. Gecevicius hit back with a three to revive the local fans, but Stipanovic took a pass from Niels Marnegrave and finished strong for a basket plus foul. Rytas worked to get back in it with Palacios scoring outside and Gecevicius nailing a three from the corner to make it 22-29. After a timeout, Ponitka made a short jumper and Gillett a triple as Ostend restored a 12-point edge. The din in the arena increased after a Bendzius three and a steal and layup by Cook made it 30-36. The hosts kept coming hard, but Quintin Serron and Gillet managed to keep Rytas at bay. Glyniadakis scored on the offensive glass and Gecevicius from the line to bring their team within 2. Ostende missed its last shot, but held a 41-43 edge at the break.
Third quarter: Rytas takes charge and steamrolls ahead
The second half opened to nearly two scoreless minutes before Seibutis tied the score. A minute late Gecevicius scored a three to give Rytas its first lead since midway through the first quarter. Seibutis drilled another before Ostend called timeout looking to change things after an 8-1 start to the quarter. Palacios extended the lead to 7 before Ponitka battled for a tip-in and Ostend’s first basket of the half. The momentum remained Lithuanian with Gecevicius’s fourth three. However Ponitka answered with a three of his own. The crowd was on its feet after Cook beat the 24-second clock with a three that gave Rytas its first double-digit lead. Bendzius followed with another triple as Ostend struggled to find the bottom of the net. Serron scored for Ostend and Salumu followed with a three to keep the visitors alive. A Salumu layup kept the lead under 10, 65-56, through three quarters.
Fourth quarter: Ostend climbs back, but Rytas proves too strong
Seibutis hit a jumper – the first basket of the quarter some two-and-a-half minutes in – to pad the Rytas cushion. A three from Thompson kept Ostend alive. Big Bendzius scored a tip-in at one end and rejected Jared Berggren at the other. Points remained hard to come by at both ends. Gillet drew the Belgian champs within 69-61, but with less than four minutes to play, time was of the essence. Ponitka impressed with a three-point play that made it a two-possession game. Djordjevic rewarded Stipanovic for a block at one end with a dish for a two-handed slam in transition as the deficit dropped to 70-66 with just over two minutes remaining. Ostend’s defense stood up to the test on the ensuing possessions, but a pair of bad passes on offense doomed the visitors. Palacios converted a basket-plus-foul with 37 seconds left and after Salumu missed a three, the outcome was clear.
Friday, October 4, 2013