It had nothing to do with survival and everything to do with honor as two already-qualified rivals in Italy, Skipper Bologna and Benetton Treviso, went to the wire in their Group A game on Wednesday. Gianluca Basile broke a tie in the final minute with 5 consecutive points to give Skipper the victory, 82-75, and cloud Benetton's first-place standing in Group A. Benetton lost despite rallying from 11 down late in the third quarter to tie on Tyus Edney's three-pointer with 50 seconds to play. Basile answered 12 seconds later with his own three, however, and then made a steal and layup to ice the outcome. The defeat drops Benetton to 10-3 and back into a tie for first place with Barcelona, who won at home. Should they remain tied after the last game, Benetton would win the group based on its winning margin over Barca. Skipper, meanwhile, improved to 8-5 and keeps up the fight for third place in the group. Skipper was led by Carlos Delfino, who 14 of his 22 points in the first quarter to set the winning tone. Lubos Barton added 13 for the winners and Basile 11. Benetton got 25 points from Edney, 15 from Trajan Langdon and 13 from Massimo Bulleri.
Skipper started very aggressive and took an early 10-5 lead in the first quarter thanks to a couple of three-pointers hit by Delfino, who would not only go on to score 14 points in the first quarter, but started the game guarding Tyus Edney. Benetton stayed in the game thanks to Massimo Bulleri coming off the bench and center Denis Marconato making his shots as usual to bring the visitors within 11-9. Skipper shortened the team by playing with its point guard duo of Gianmarco Pozzecco and Gianluca Basile while nursing the lead along to 19-15. Bulleri then nailed a three-pointer to cut Benetton's deficit to just a point, 19-18. But Skipper's intensity was still high enough to finish the quarter with a flurry by scoring the last 6 points to lead 24-18 after 10 minutes.
Skipper looked to Pozzecco's pick-and-roll plays in the second quarter in attempts to increase the rhythm of the game. Giacomo Galanda hit a triple for the hosts, while Benetton suffered a couple of big turnovers, but still succeeded in staying in touch with the lead at 33-27 thanks to the scoring of Trajan Langdon and Marcelo Nicola. Galanda suffered foul trouble and Skipper took turned it into a plus, playing now with four small players. Lubos Barton, Stefano Mancinelli and Pozzecco got together for a 9-2 run that let the hosts lengthen their lead into double digits at 42-29. Three points scored by Edney stopped the slide for Benetton, but Delfino was a real power still and reached 20 points to keep the lead high at 44-34. Skipper was pulling all sorts of offensive rebounds, and Barton finished the half with a dunk that pushed the advantage to a dozen points, 46-34, at the half.
Langdon opened the second half with a three-pointer for Benetton, but Galanda answered with the same. As such, Skipper kept its intensity high and despite a couple of offensive mistakes, Fortitudo was still leading by double digits, 51-40 midway through the third quarter, thanks to defense. Bulleri and Langdon kept Treviso into the game despite Barton's great contribution, but Skipper now came up with excellent offensive solutions to keep the gap wide at 59-48. Benetton made an effort at the end of the period, and with Bulleri's jumper the guests reduced the gap to single digits, 62-54, after 30 minutes.
Benetton arrived to the fourth quarter ready with a comeback effort as Dante Calabria's three-pointer reduced the gap to 6 points, 69-63. Mate Skelin answered, however, with a basket-plus-free throw to make it 72-63, and then young Mancinelli blocked a layup attempt by Langdon that seemed to rejuvenate the home team for the finish. But Skipper missed two KO shots, and Edney made the hosts pay with a three-pointer. When Benetton's Kresimir Loncar was fouled on a rebound and hit 1 of 2 free throws, the defecit was all the way down to 3 points, 74-71, with 2 minutes left. Free throws by Emilio Kovacic for Skipper and Garbajosa for Benetton set the stage for Edney to tie it all up with a huge three-pointer for 75-75 with with 50 seconds left. The answer came courtesy of Basile, with his own downtown bomb with 38 seconds left. He followed that with a steal and hookshot on the break to make it 80-75 2ith only 26 seconds to go. Benetton suffered another turnover with 15 seconds left and Skipper's fans could celebrate the win as Pozzecco's free throws fixed the final score.
Wednesday, February 5, 2003