Eldo Napoli rejoined the Top 16 race in Group C by edging Elan Bearnais Pau-Orthez 68-72 in France on Wednesday night. Eldo Napoli improved to 5-7 and could move into a tie for fifth place if Benetton Treviso beats Aris TT Bank on Thursday. Napoli set up a big showdown against Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul next week – a direct fight to reach the next round. Meanwhile, Pau dropped to 6-6 and missed a chance to make it to the Top 16, even though it still controls its own destiny with two games remaining. Mason Rocca led the winners with 18 points on 6-of-9 two-pointers and 10 rebounds, including a big block, a key rebound and a free throw in the final 45 seconds. Jeff Trepagnier added 16 points, Ansu Sesay had 14 and Michel Morandais 13 for Napoli. Ricardo Greer had 15 points for Pau, Michael Wright added 14, Aaron Miles 11 and Melvin Sanders 10 for the hosts, who were outrebounded 32-40. Pau led 59-50 late in the third quarter, but Rocca led a 0-11 run, which brought Napoli back into the game. Sesay and Tyrone Ellis hit critical three-pointers down the stretch before Rocca sealed the outcome in the final seconds.
Wright got Pau going with a basket in the low post that Morandais matched with a mid-range jumper. Rocca added a fast break layup for a 2-4 Napoli edge. Pau kept trying to run its offense through a double-teamed Wright, but the hosts kept missing open shots. Meanwhile, Morandais buried one from downtown and added another jumper on a third-chance Napoli offense to give the guests a 4-9 lead. Britton Johnsen stepped up with a put-back basket and Miles added a driving layup to bring Pau back to life. Jay Larranaga and Greer traded free throws as Pau showed aggressive play on defense. Miles scored again in penetration, causing Napoli to call timeout at 12-11 to fix its offense. Pau kept forcing its opponents to take off-balanced shots, while Greer fired in one from downtown for a 16-12 lead. Fred Fauthoux made free throws, but Sesay answered from downtown and Morandais buried a nine-meter bomb to tie it at 18-18 after 10 minutes.
Michael Bauer came off the bench and immediately took over with a reverse layup, which Trepagnier erased with a tip-in. Napoli had gained the momentum with Valerio Spinelli at the point, as Trepagnier buried one from downtown and Alessandro Cittadini dunked it in traffic. On the other side, Napoli switched to zone defense. Ian Mahinmi hit free throws and Sanders shined with consecutive layups to help Pau regain the lead, 26-25. Miles collected a steal and found Sanders for another fast break layup that Trepagnier quickly bettered with a triple. Miles scored in transition, but a low-post basket by Cittadini saw Pau call timeout at 30-30. Wright made free throws, Miles nailed one from downtown and Greer added a fast break layup that gave the hosts a 38-30 lead. Napoli kept missing shots for 3 long minutes, while Bauer beat the shot clock buzzer with a jumper which capped a 10-0 run before Trepagnier buried a corner triple to get the guests within 40-33 at halftime.
Once again Wright was first to score after the break to give Pau a double-digit lead. Both teams missed shots, but Napoli found a go-to guy in Rocca, who brought the guests within 43-37 after 23 minutes. Pau struggled to score and could not find Wright either, while Rocca scored again to cause the hosts call timeout at 43-39. C.C. Harrison banked in an off-balanced shot for his first basket and Sanders buried a corner triple to give Pau some fresh air at 48-39. Trepagnier answered from downtown, but Napoli kept missing easy shots. Points only came from the free throw line over the next 2 minutes until Harrison hit a short jumper for a 52-44 Pau edge. Sesay made foul shots and Rocca scored off a pick-and-roll in the high post. Bauer fed Greer for a layup and Wright scored in the paint. Free throws by Sesay, Rocca and a three-pointer by Fauthoux fixed the score at 59-51 after three quarters.
Rocca stayed hot early in the fourth quarter and shined with a layup-plus-foul that Sesay followed with a three-pointer to get Napoli within 59-57. Rocca took over with a big basket, which forced Pau to call timeout witht he score tied 59-59. Trepagnier capped a 0-11 run with a fast break layup, but Greer stepped up with a reverse layup to tie it at 61-61. Wright and Bauer had consecutive monster blocks for Pau, while Greer set the crowd on fire with a three-point play. Sesay kept pacing Napoli with free throws and Wright and Morandais exchanged baskets for a 66-64 score with under 5 minutes to go. Miles scored in penetration, but Sesay nailed his second triple and Ellis added another one from downtown to give Napoli a 68-70 edge with 3 minutes to go. Pau kept struggling at crunch time, while Morandais made a free throw and Rocca had a critical block on Johnsen. An offensive foul on Sesay gave Pau the possession with 31.1 seconds to go. Harrison missed a floating layup and Rocca grabbed the rebound and sealed the win from the foul line.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007