BK Ventspils made it to the ULEB Cup elimination rounds for the third consecutive season by downing Strasbourg 87-60 at home in a key game in Group B on Tuesday night. Ventspils improved to 5-3 and ties for the second place in the Group B standings with Snaidero Cucine Udine, which beat Anwil Wloclawek 84-88 on the road and also made it to the elimination rounds. Meanwhile, Strasbourg is fourth at 4-4 and needs another win to advance. Justin Love led the winners with 19 points on 4 of 6 three-pointers. Eddie Shannon added 15 on 6 of 6 two-pointers, Uvis Helmanis had 13 on 3 of 4 triples while Dusan Jelic and Akselis Vairogs each scored 12 points for Ventspils. Jelic added 13 rebounds for a double-double. Aerick Sanders was the only Strasbourg player in double figures with 11 points. Ventspils opened the game with a 12-2 run and soon extended its margin to 35-17 midway through the second quarter. Strasbourg managed to get within 41-31, but Love, Helmanis and Vairogs allowed Ventspils to get a big home win.
Love opened the score with a three-pointer to which Claude Marquis for a four-meter jumper. Ventspils did not panic, as Aigars Vitols had 4 points in a 9-0 run which Shannon capped with a layup-plus-foul to give the hosts a 12-2 lead. Sanders made free throws off a Strasbourg timeout while Chuck Eidson dunked it, but Love and Shannon kept Ventspils ahead, 16-6. Helmanis and Dirk Madrich exchanged triples while a layup by Jelic and another three-point play by Shannon gave the hosts a 24-11 lead. Shannon stepped up with another layup which John McCord erased with a fast break basket. A free throw by Vairogs fixed the score at 27-13 after 10 minutes. Helmanis stroke from downtown right at the start of the quarter to make it a 17-point game, 30-13. Marquis tried to change things with a layup but Dalron Johnson buried another triple. McCord made free throws which Pavels Veselovs erased with a close basket, forcing Strasbourg to call timeout at 35-17. Afik Nissim and McCord tried to ignit the Strasbourg comeback, while a three-pointer by Lonnie Cooper and a mid-range jumper by Eidson brought the guests within 38-26. Ventspils called timeout and Love nailed his third bomb from downtown but Sanders and McCord fueled a 0-5 which brought Strasbourg back to life, 41-31. Jelic followed free throws with a jumper to make Ventspils keep a 45-31 margin at halftime.
Cooper tried to get Strasbourg going with a jumper early in the third quarter, but Love and Shannon combined for all points in a 6-0 run which put Ventspils fully in charge, 51-33. Nissim and Michael Smith stepped up with consecutive jumpers but free throws by Jelic and a dunk off a steal by Love allowed Ventspils to keep full control. Sanders followed foul shots with a jumper, but Helmanis nailed a triple and added a jumper to make it a 20-point game, 61-41. Shannon fed Love for another dunk and then added a layup to break the game open, 65-41. Madrich and Helmanis exchanged jumpers but free throws by Veselovs gave Ventspils another game-high lead, 69-43, at the end of the third quarter. Everything was said and done at this point, as Ventspils kept an eye on other courts to see if it was mathematically qualified for the elimination rounds. Meanwhile, Strasbourg tried to cut its deficit even when the outcome was clear. Sanders stepped up with a three-point play, but Vairogs erased it with a big triple for a 74-47 Ventspils lead with 6 minutes to go. Another 6-0 Ventspils run which Vairogs capped with a jumper made the guests call timeout at 80-49. Nothing changed until the final buzzer, as all Ventspils fans celebrated that their team is back in the ULEB Cup elimination rounds!
Tuesday, December 19, 2006