Metis Varese vaulted to first place in Group D at the end of the regular season by winning its last game 80-72 over last-place Ricoh Astronauts at the end of a hard-fought battle. Varese finished 6-4, tied with Caprabo Lleida and Charleroi, but first after tiebreakers. Varese will wait with the rest of the qualifiers for the second-round draw to know the name of their next opponent. Varese got an excellent game by young shooter Federico Marin, who netted 14 points, and from center Cristiano Zanus-Fortes, who led the way with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Veteran forward Francesco Vescovi added 10 more points. For Astronauts, Joe Spinks was the scoring leader with 28 points. Mindaugas Burneika contributed 14 more, but they were the only two players in double figure for the Dutch champs, who go out of the competition with a 3-7 record.
The game started with poor percentages as Astronauts took a 5-7 edge. Then the two teams alternated leads without giving the other any possibility to escape. Forward Christian Di Giuliomaria scored a lay-up and later a free throw for a four-point lead by the home team, 17-13, but immediately shooter Mindaugas Burneika answered from the arc for 17-16. The first period ended on 21-18 for Varese. Spinks started the new quarter with two straight long distance shots to give Astronauts a 21-24 lead, and Chris McGuthrie followed him with another as the advantage for the guests grew to 23-29 after 13 minutes. Varese came back with power forward Paolo Conti on fire, but Burneika and Spinks continued to score from distance and Astronauts mantained a 30-35 lead. The second period ended with a mid-range jumper by Ryan McCormack finally giving Varese a 39-39 tie, though Spinks made a pair of late free throws for a 39-41 Astronauts lead headed into the lockers. Spinks had already had 17 points.
The third period started with both teams missing a lot of shots and Ivan Tomeljak giving a 39-45 lead to guests, but then Marin, the youngster from Argentina, McCormack combined forces on a 14-0 run to put Metis ahead 49-45. Marin was up to 12 points, but Spinks wasn't finished. He oke up and led his team to tie at 49-49. In the quarter's last minutes the two teams went on fire and scored several baskets in succession, but McCormack and Vescovi were able gave to Metis the final 55-52 lead after 30 minutes. In the first part of the final quarter, Varese kept on running and Vescovi led the way to take a 65-57 lead after 36 minutes, the first comfortable edge for Varese in awhile. The hosts were able to stay ahead mantaining a slim advantage despite the attempts of Dutch team to rally, until a decisive three-pointer canned by center Zanus-Fortes came too close to the final buzzer for Astronauts to react again.
Friday, January 17, 2003