Entente Orleanaise Loiret got one step away from reaching the Euroleague regular season by downing Benetton Gioco Digitale 73-82 in Game 1 of the two-way second qualifying round in Treviso, Italy on Tuesday. Orleans grabbed a nine-point lead in the series and hosts Game 2 in France on Friday. Cedrick Banks led the winners with 22 points on 6-of-9 three-pointers. Justin Doellman added 18 while Austin Nichols had 13 for Orleans. Cartier Martin led Benetton with 23 points. Donatas Motiejunas added 12, CJ Wallace had 11 while Davor Kus got 10 for the hosts. Sandro Nicevic and Wallace allowed Benetton to stay in the game, 20-20, at the end of the first quarter. Orleans found a go-to guy in Banks, that buried three triples in a game-breaking 2-19 run. Banks added another shot from downtown to help Orleans to get a 26-47 halftime margin. Orleans kept full control of the game with outstanding ball circulation and strong defense, but Martin and Motiejunas led an 11-0 run that got Benetton within 63-72 with 4 minutes to go. Doellman stepped up in crunch time and allowed Orleans to go back home with an important led in the series.
Nichols got Orleans going with a five-meter jumper but Martin quickly answered from downtown for a 3-2 Benetton lead. Orleans tried a zone defense early in the game but a three-point play by Kus and a corner triple by Gary Neal boosted the hosts' margin to 9-4. Orleans found a go-to guy in Doellman, that joined the three-point shootout, added a layup and struck again from downtown to make the guests regain the lead, 11-12. Benetton tried to get Martin and Neal involved without much success. Nicevic stepped up with a layup but Anthony Dobbins bettered with a triple, good for a 14-15 Orleans edge. Doellman soon fired in his third three-pointer but Nicevic and Wallace helped Benetton to tie it at 18-18. Cedrick Banks shined with a second-chance layup that Motiejunas matched in the other end, enough for Benetton to tie it at 20-20 after 10 minutes.
Orleans tried to attack the basket early in the second quarter. As such, Nichols shined with a power layup but Kus answered with a rainbow jumper for a 22-22 tie. Banks buried a big triple that Nichols followed with another driving layup to give the guests their biggest lead that far, 22-27. Benetton had already entered the foul bonus and switched to a zone defense that Banks punished with back-to-back triples - one from each corner. Ludovic Vaty and Laurent Sciarra made free throws while Nichols buried a triple to break the game open, 24-40, midway through this period. Benetton struggled to find open shots, taking wrong decisions in offense. Meanwhile, a free throw by Vaty capped a 2-19 run for a 24-41 Orleans margin. Jamin Hukic tried to ignite the hosts' comeback with a layup that Banks bettered with his fourth triple - all in this quarter. Ryvon Covile soon added a backdoor layup to make it a 21-point game, 26-47, at halftime.
Neal tried to change things with a driving basket immediately after the break but Aldo Curti quickly answered from downtown for a 28-50 Orleans lead. Benetton kept committing turnovers while the guests tried to slow down the game tempo to keep the game clock running. Benetton, however, had improved its defense and Wallace buried a triple to get the crowd involved. Doellman and Nicevic traded jumpers but Orleans kept full control of the game with great ball circulation. Dobbins took over with a three-point play to keep the guests way ahead, 33-55. Wallace and Martin stepped up with back-to-back three-pointers but a dunk by Vaty got Orleans back in track, 39-57. Adrian Moerman shined with a fast break layup but free throws by Wallace and Hackett gave the hosts some hope at 43-59. Banks - who else? - and Martin exchanged three-pointers but Moerman followed foul shots with a put-back layup for a 48-66 Orleans lead after 30 minutes.
Benetton needed a major comeback to return to the series but Banks nailed his sixth three-pointer while Moerman scored again to make it a 20-point game, 51-71. The hosts tried to speed up the game tempo with Martin and Neal together on court, but Orleans kept following its game plan. Covile beat the shot clock with a baseline jumper but consecutive baskets by Martin kept Benetton within 57-73. It was do-or-die time for Benetton, that played with more intensity now. Martin stayed on fire with a three-pointer that made Orleans call a much-needed timeout at 60-73. Motiejunas dunked it and soon added a layup to bring Benetton within single digits, 62-73, after an 11-0 run. Doellman followed a big triple off an Orleans timeout with a power layup that sealed the outcome, 62-78, with under 3 minutes to go. Benetton did not give up, however, as Motiejunas, Kus and Martin stepped up to get Benetton within 73-82. Even when Orleans took a critical step forwards, Benetton will keep fighting to be in the Euroleague next season.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009