Benetton Basket came from behind twice in miraculous fashion to beat Cholet Basket 81-80 in overtime and advance to the last 16 from Group F, bringing Crvena Zvezda with it. Back-to-back three-pointers by Donatas Montiejunas and Gary Neal – the last after a Cholet turnover – forced overtime. And down 6 in the extra period, a basket from young Montiejunas and free throws by Sandro Nicevic opened the door for Neal’s game-winning triple with 17 seconds remaining that decided the game. Benetton improved to 4-1 and heads to Belgrade to face Crvena Zvezda next week in a head-to-head duel for first place. Cholet fell to 2-3 and saw its last hopes of reaching the Last 16 vanish. Nicevic led Benetton with 28 points, Neal finished with 22, KC Rivers scored 13 in his debut and CJ Wallace tallied 10 points and 11 rebounds. Sammy Mejia paced Cholet with 26 points, Antywane Robinson had 21 and 9 rebounds, Mickael Gelabale scored 10 and Randal Falker posted 12 rebounds in defeat.
Robinson stole the show early on with 2 free throws and a spectacular block on Neal. The offenses were having the better on the defenses with Cholet taking the edge 8-10 after five minutes. Benetton took a timeout and Rivers got in action with 7 unanswered points, before Nicevic took over to complete an 11-0 run as head coach Erman Kunter asked for a timeout. A long scoring drought was followed by a drive baseline from Gelabale to close the first quarter at 19-14 in favor of the hosts. A clock violation opened up the second quarter for Treviso, but Rivers showed off his one-on-one skills again. Meanwhile, Cholet’s offensive woes continued. Robinson eventually put an end to it with a triple and a driving layup to cut the deficit to 2 points. Mejia then tied it at 21-21 as Rivers was sent back on after a very short rest, but it was Mejia again using his size inside and converting a two-plus-one. It was now Treviso’s offense struggling with a couple of Neal’s shots agonizingly riming out. Meanwhile, Gelabale inside completed a 0-12 run for the guests that prompted Benetton coach Frank Vitucci to call his boys for a chat. Cholet kept at it, though, with Robinson from three. Neal eventually stopped the bleeding on the counter attack. Nicevic added a brilliant fadeaway but Arvydas Eitutavicius and Mejia silenced the crowd with two more triples for a 29-35 halftime lead.
Cholet started where it left off in the first half, with Fabien Causeur converting a three-point play and Robinson giving a double digit lead to Cholet with a tip-in. Neal was on hand to show his team the way back with a triple. However, a couple of drives from Mejia kept Cholet up 40-48. Neal and Mejia continued to duel – they each scored 9 in the quarter – before Gelabale stunned the crowd with 4 more points without reply including a follow-slam st the end of the third quarter that made it 47-58. A steal and unbelievable save from Linehan sent Cholet on the break as a real battle started in the fourth with a lot of tension in the air. Nicevic and Wallace showed lovely touch, but Mejia punished from outside after another offensive board. The score was 54-63 with 4:45 to play. Nicevic was having the better of Falker and helped his team back within 4. Treviso took full advantage of an early foul bonus as Nicevic continued his prowess. However, Cholet hung on with drives to the basket and visits to the line. The 6-point advantage, though, was halved thanks to an impossible corner triple from Rivers with the defender all over him. But the most incredible was to come. Robinson stumbled, let the ball out of bounce and Neal fired the triple at the buzzer to send Treviso in extra time and with a big advantage psychologically.
If the last ten minutes were filled with drama, the extra time proved to be as tense. Cholet regained its composure to lead by 3, but Nicevic was having none of it. Robinson nailed a jumper and Treviso made only 1of 3 from the line. A nice team play was then concluded by a fierce dunk by young Kevin Seraphin as Cholet regained a 5-point lead with 1:34 to play. Montiejunas proved decisive again as he nailed a three at the end of regular time and provoked another three-point play. Neal drained an unbelievable 3 to get back in front with 17 seconds let and became the hero again for Treviso as Cholet fumbled its last offense.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010