The 2009-10 Euroleague season kicked off with four close games in the first qualifying round on Tuesday. All four home teams - Aris BSA 2003, BK Ventspils, Spirou Basket and Le Mans - registered respective first leg wins but none of them was by more than 5 points, which leaves all chances open for the second leg this Friday. The winner by aggregate score after the two games in each series will advance to the second qualifying round next week. All four losers will have the chance to prove their value in the 2009-10 Eurocup. Aris downed Maroussi BC 69-67
on a game-winning three-pointer by Nikos Hatzivrettas. Andy Betts paced Aris with 15 points and 11 rebounds, Keydren Clark also scored 15 and Hatzivrettas tallied 14 - including the game winner with 0.4 seconds remaining. Jared Homan had 13 points and 10 boards for Maroussi. Ventspils survived a tough test by topping Benetton Gioco Digitale 78-73
in Riga, Latvia. Aaron Pettway put the winners on his back and finished with a monster double-double: 20 points on 8-for-10 two-pointers, 17 rebounds and 3 blocks. Even when some Latvian teams took part in preliminary rounds without reaching the Euroleague regular season in the 1990s, no team from this country has played Europe's signature competition since ASK made it to the two-way finals against CSKA 48 years ago - and Ventspils keeps the chance to do so. In Charleroi, Spirou Basket edged Entente Orleanaise 55-53
at the Spiroudome behind 10 points from Jerry Johnson. Spirou led 53-32 with under 8 minutes to go but Austin Nichols and Cedrick Banks led a wild rally that brought Orleans back in the series. Last but not least, Le Mans edged Alba Berlin 61-60
in the first leg in France on Tuesday night with 28 points from Marc Salyers. Alba rallied from a 15-point deficit to get a 53-59 lead with 2 minutes to go, but Maleye Ndoye and Salyers allowed Le Mans to grab a one-point lead in the series. Expect action, drama, excitement and devotion in the second leg on Friday, in which anything can happen.