A three-point bomb with 2 seconds to go by Lubos Barton could be remembered next year in Bologna as the shot that put Skipper in the Top 16. Barton's shot fell through to give Skipper a huge road win, 77-80, on the road at Alba Berlin, it's closest pursuer for a Top 16 berth. Barton's role at the end was appropriate, because he had been scoring for Skipper all game, and finished with a team-high 20 points. Giacomo Galanda added 13 for the winners, Gianmarco Pozzecco 12, Tomas Van den Spiegel 11 and Carlos Delfino 10. Alba got 17 points from Mithat Demirel, 15 each from Quadre Lollis and Stefano Garris, and a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds from Jovo Stanojevic. It's first road this season lifted Skipper's record to 5-4, while Alba stayed two wins behind at 3-6.
Alba started with a surprise among its starters, youngster Guido Grunheid, who did a good job against Delfino. Defense dominated on both ends of the court from the beginning. Galanda caught 2 fouls before christening the scoreboard with a three-pointer. But Skipper had few ideas to beat Alba's defense, and the hosts, with 4 points from Lollis and 5 from Grunheid, went quickly ahead 14-5. While the Berliners then went inside to score easy baskets by Stanojevic, the Italians tried their luck from outside and were right: Three triples from Gianluca Basile, Vlado Scepanovic and Barton keep Skipper alive at the end of the first quarter, 20-14.
With Basile at the command instead of Pozzecco, Skipper's offense got better. Alba missed some easy shots and did not score for the first 4 minutes of the secnd quarter, which gave Skipper the chance to take the lead at 20-21. With Van den Spiegel under the basket, Skipper got stronger inside, but Demirel took the lead back, 24-22, with Alba's first basket of the quarter, a three-pointer. The battle had been joined by both teams, with strong defense on both ends and points mostly resulting from fastbreaks. Pozzecco put Skipper ahead again with a triples, but Demirel answered the same way. Barton now stepped up as Skippers main offensive weapon, hitting his first triple to regain a 31-32 lead. But no lead lasted. Garris cued up from behind the arc now and Alba was back in front, 36-34, before Barton and Stanojevic traded baskets for a 40-37 Alba lead at the half. Demirel was leading Alba with 10 points, while Barton had 11 for Skipper.
Alba came out strong after the break, turning up the tempo and broadening the lead to 48-40. Both teams established a quick, up-and-down pace. Demirel had to leave with his fourth foul, but John Celestand successfully took over the organisation of Alba's game. But the hosts once again let Skipper dial up 3 consecutive three-pointers, two by Delfino and anothe rby Basile, as the guests closed to within a sing point, 52-51. Fastbreaks out of the defenses, finished by Celestand, Lollis and Garris for Alba, but answered by Galanda and Pozzecco for Skipper, left Alba ahead 60-57 after 30 minutes.
Pozzecco kept Skipper in touch with a triple early in the fourth quarter, while Celestand and Lollis scored to keep Alba up by 66-62. Now, Galanda and Van den Spiegel teamed up to control the paint for Skipper. Alba could not score easy baskets any more and lost control of the game flow. Demirel entered for Celestand, but there was still no change. Skipper's defense had everything under control as the italians escaped to a 67-74 advantage. Alba tightened the defense one last time, and now it was Skipper who could not score. Only 100 seconds before the siren, Demirel with a three-pointer re-opened the game for Alba. Celestand made only 1 of 2 free throws to make it 71-74, but Galanda responded with a huge triple for 71-77 before leaving with his fifth foul. Stanojevic now showed nerves at the line, missing 2 free throws with 50 seconds to go. But as Skipper kept missing, Demirel and Garris rained a pair of three-pointers even the score 77-77. Skipper, with 11 seconds left, decided to go with their best man of the night: Barton came up big when it counted, and Skipper may remember it as the key shot of the season.
Thursday, December 19, 2002