Spain: Barca to semis, Polonara saves Baskonia
Achille Polonara saved an 87-86 victory not once, but twice, for KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz against Unicaja Malaga on Tuesday in a thriller at the Spanish League's end-of-season tournament. Polonara forced overtime with a shot he made with 4 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The game was headed to a second overtime, too, when he was fouled attempting a fastbreak layup with 0.2 seconds on the clock. Polonara missed the first free throw, but hit the second, enough to secure the victory. Pierria Henry led the winners with 14 points, including the last 2 crucial three-pointers. Luca Vildoza added 13, while Michael Eric and Zoran Dragic had 10 points each. Gal Mekel and Alberto Diaz scored 17 each to lead Unicaja, while Axel Boutielle added 16 and Deon Thompson 10. Baskonia had led by as many as 15 points, 39-24, with less than 3 minutes left in the second quarter. Unicaja responded with a 5-24 run that bridged the halves and supplied a 44-48 advantage midway through the third quarter. That lead peaked at 70-75 with 1:30 left in the fourth on Melvin Ejim's basket for Unicaja. A 6-2 finish that ended with Polonara's basket forced OT, where Henry's triple made it 83-80 for Baskonia before Boutielle made them back-to-back to put Unicaja up 83-86 in the final minute. Henry was good for another, with 35 seconds left, but Boutielle missed his next pair of tries and left enough time for Polonara to race the other way and decide the game.
FC Barcelona shook off the absence of star Nikola Mirotic to pull away to a 73-85 win over RETAbet Bilbao. As such, Barca ran its group record to 4-0 and became the first team to gain itself a place in the semifinals. The game was nip-and-tuck for the first 25 minutes but ultimately Barca's big men proved too much for the opposition. The trio of Pierre Oriola, Brandon Davies and Ante Tomic combined for 50 of Barca's points and 19 of its 31 rebounds. Although Barca led 16-19 after the first quarter, Bilbao pulled within 33-34 at the half and took several leads before and after that, the last one at 54-53 late in the third quarter. Triples by Kyle Kuric and Alex Abrines around a basket by Davies provided the 0-8 push that sent Barca ahead 54-61 and kept it in control the rest of the way. Oriola finished with 23 points, Davies 14 and Tomic 13, while Cory Higgins chipped in 12 for the winners.
In Tuesday's late game, Joventut Badalona scored 8 points in the game's final 25 seconds but fell short in an 82-80 loss to Iberostar Tenerife. At the end of a back-and-forth game, Joventut trailed 81-72 with 29 seconds left, before almost making a spectacular late comeback. Klemen Prepelic converted a three-point play and hit a triple from deep, but only 3 seconds remained and Joventut could not get the ball back. Prepelic scored 12 of his 18 points in the last 90 seconds for the losers. Nenad Dimitrijevic had 16 and Xavi Lopez 14 for Joventut. Tenerife was led by Gabriel Lundberg with 20 points.
Germany: Ludwigsburg to finals in a first
MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg reached the finals the German League's end-of-season tournament, marking a first in club history, after defeating ratiopharm Ulm 85-94 in Game 2 of their semifinals on Tuesday. The two teams had tied 71-71 in the two-game cummulative score contest, which Ludwigsburg won 165-156 on aggregate. Marcos Knight collected 26 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists for Ludwigsburg, which came back from 13 points down in the game. Thomas Wimbush picked up 22 points and 12 rebounds and Nick Weiler-Babb poured in 20 points for Ludwigsburg, which had lost in its previous four trips to the semis (1991-92, 1992-93, 2006-07 and 2017-18). In the finals on Friday and Sunday, Ludwigsburg will face either ALBA Berlin or EWE Baskets Oldenburg. Ulm failed to reach its fourth finals appearance despite Archie Goodwin scoring 19 points while Thomas Klepeisz had 17 points and Derek Willis 11.
Jaleen Smith converted a three-point play and Knight hit from deep as Ludwigsburg went up 2-6 early. Klepeisz scored 10 points in a 12-2 run as Ulm surged ahead 19-12. Tyler Harvey added a triple for Ulm, which was ahead 24-16 after 10 minutes. Per Guenther hit from long range in a 9-0 spurt in pushing the margin to 33-20. Knight and Weiler-Babb both hit three-pointers as Ludwigsburg answered with a 3-12 run to pull within 36-32. Christoph Philipps managed an and-one for Ulm as the margin grew to 46-39 only to see Weiler-Babb finish the first half with a three-ball to make it 46-42 at the break. Smith and Wimbush both hit from long range to start the second half and Wimbush added a big dunk and-one as Ludwigsburg raced ahead 46-51. The lead was 55-61 until Ulm made a run with five points from Goodwin and a trey from Dylan Osetkowski to make it 69-67. But it was Ludwigsburg leading 69-71 after three quarters. Weiler-Babb and Wimbush drained long balls to start the fourth quarter to increase the cushion to 69-77. Weiler-Babb hit yet another triple before Knight took over with 7 straight points and Ludwigsburg led 75-87. Ulm did not get closer than 6 points, 85-91, the rest of the way.