Hemofarm Stada advanced to the Last 16, despite losing Tuesday to Asvel Basket 81-80 in a Eurocup thriller. Hemofarm lost the game, but edged out Asvel for second place in Group A on a tiebreaker. Both teams finished with 3-3 records, but because Hemofarm won their first meeting 97-93 in Serbia last month, the 1-point loss still kept it ahead of Asvel in the standings. Teenager Danilo Andusic paced Hemofarm with a career-high 20 points, while Boris Savovic added 16 points and 10 boards and Mustafa Abdul Hamid scored 12, including a key triple to oust the hosts from the competition. Hemofarm was able to regroup after two losses in a row left them with a 2-2 record after week 4, but head coach Zlejko Lukajic’s team found a way to win its last two games and enter the decisive match against Asvel with a chance and the tiebreaker in its favor. Asvel had the lead, the win and the next round ticket in hand, leading 79-74 with little more than a minute to play after a Davon Jefferson basket. And it had the ball twice, courtesy of a Mickael Gelabale steal and a Matt Walsh rebound, but both Walsh and Cliff Hammonds missed three-point shots and, after Jefferson extended the lead to 5 from the line, visiting Lukajic called timeout and drew up a play for an Abdul Hamid three, which proved to be the difference. Despite playing without star forward Milos Macvan, who moved to Turkish Airlines Euroleague side Maccabi Electra last week, Hemofarm was able to seal the victory and clinch a spot in the last 16 with a solid group effort. For Asvel, Walsh led the charge with 21 points, while Jefferson had 15 and 7 rebounds, Gelabale netted 11 and Kim Tillie totaled 8 boards as Asvel walked away with a 3-3 record.
Asvel needed 4 points to advance and got them quickly, as Jefferson jumped the home side to a 5-0 lead, though Hemofarm showed it came to play with 0-7 run of its own to take it back after a Savovic three point play. With Tillie banging inside and Walsh feeling it again from the perimeter, the hosts had reasons to believe, especially after a Tillie layup off an offensive rebound put them ahead 27-21 at the end of the first quarter. But the Asvel offense would find more resistance in the second quarter, as Hemofarm responded with tighter defense and better rebounding that stifled the hosts without a field goal in the first three minutes. Still, Asvel was up 31-21, its largest lead of the game to that point, after a Hammonds jumper. Milos Borisov got the visitors back to within 7 with a triple and Pavkovic made it 5 after a layup. Hemofarm was slowly adjusting to life without Macvan and showed resilience along with a willingness to bang inside, finishing with 13 baskets in the paint to Asvel’s 16. The hosts adjusted some and finished the half strong, as only an Andusic layup prevented the lead from reaching double digits at the break, 43-35.
Hoping to put the game, and the spread, out of Hemofarm’s reach, Asvel made a push to start the third quarter and the host’s first three baskets were a Walsh triple, a Bangaly Fofana dunk and another three-point bomb by Gelabale. The lead widened to 53-39 after a Jefferson layup, the biggest difference in the game. And just when things were rolling for the homeside, Hemofarm got consecutive three-pointers from Andusic and Bojan Krstovic, sparking a 2-13 run that put Asvel on its heels again. With the third quarter ending with Leo Westermann and Abdul Hamid trading triples and a wide-open 63-59 score, the fourth had the makings of a classic. The same scorers, Westermann and Abdul Hamid, the latter with a triple, got their teams going in crunch time, as Abdul Hamid would finish with 7 of his 12 points in the period. With a 2-point lead not being enough for Asvel, Fofana and Walsh were finally able to pull though and make it 74-69 from the line at the midway point. The game got tighter and feistier, with both squads battling for the next round, and trips to the line ensued until the final sequence, when Jefferson got free for the 79-75 and Hemofarm simply would not go down in the last minute. With a chance to make a play, Lukajic called time, drew something up and Abdul Hamid let the ball fly from beyond the arc. As it swished the net, Hemofarm exhaled and Asvel finally kneeled. A victory that felt like a loss and a loss that felt like win.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010