Krka Novo Mesto prevailed 76-69 over Pivovarna Lasko to sweep their series
A derby that would put only one Slovenian team in the quarterfinals went down to the wire in Novo Mesto on Tuesday before Krka was able to beat Pivovarna Lasko 76-69 to sweep their series 2-0. The difference in points, however, was almost as close as the difference in games, as a 78-79 first-leg result made for back-and-forth suspense throughout the deciding game. The ties endured into the closing minutes until Slavko Duscak's three-pointer and Aleksandar Capin's free throws settled the question for Krka, which moves on to Caprabo Lleida of Spain in the quarterfinals. Boris Gnjidic led Krka with 21 points on Tuesday. Duscak added 17 for the winners and Capin 14. For Lasko, Smiljan Pavic was the big gun with 25 points, while Kenyan Weaks put up 14.
Pivovarna started strong, jumping to short leads of 2-6 and 4-10. But Krka, after 3 early turnovers due to nervousness, was able to tie it up 10-10 after 5 minutes. By that time, Smiljan Pavic and Kenyan Weaks had 4 points each for Lasko, while Jamie Arnold had his first 4 for Krka. Pavic put the visitors up 10-12 with another basket before Aleksander Capin, on a three-point play, set Krka's first lead at 13-12. Now Ermal Kuqo joined the scoring with a dunk and Lasko was ahead again. Back and forth they battled from there, with Capin driving for another Krka lead, 17-16, after 8 minutes. Kuqo tied it twice after that, at 17-17 and 19-19, before Slavko Duscak dropped Krka's second three-pointer to send the hosts ahead at 22-19 after 10 minutes.
The start of the second quarter was slow for both teams. Two scoreless minutes passed due to turnovers, then Lasko made a 5-0 run behind Dragan Dojcin's first points and a Primoz Kobale triple to take the lead at 22-24. Capin and Aleksanadar Amravic would re-tie for Krka at 26-26, and the fans started settling in for a long, tight game. Krka decided to spring a zone defense on Lasko, a decision which paid off with a new lead of 30-30 with 4 minutes left until the half. Krka newcomer Donte Mathis showed some good defense, stopping Lasko drivers in their tracks. Still, Lasko keept catching Krka on the scoreboard, such that with 1 minute to go it was 32-30. But that was enough time for Duscak and Marko Maravic to secure their team's first important lead, 36-30, just in time for the half. By then, Capin was leading Krka with 9 points and Lasko's best scorer was Weaks with 8.
The close margins continued after halftime as Krka came on court without its main contributor, Arnold, who had been stopped in the first half by Kuqo. Arnold was replaced by Milos Paravinja, but through 4 minutes, Lasko hung tough at 44- 40. Krka continued with its zone defense and Lasko kept suffering from turnovers, 17 in just 26 minutes thus far. The tension of the game, with so much riding on the outcome, explained a lot about why neither team was performing at its best. Krka manage to get another lead of 48-42 after Boris Gnjidic reached 12 points. Things really started to go Krka's way toward the 28-minute mark, when its first double-digit lead appeared, 54-44. But soon after that Kobale answered with his second three-pointer and the third quarter finished with 54-49 on the board and the result within either team's reach.
Lasko started last 10 minutes very aggresive and with points by Pavic manage to almost catch Krka at 56-55. But Krka had its response ready in the form of a 6-0 run on Duscak's second triple and another shot from behind the arc by Marten Bader. The lead was at 62-55 with 6 minutes remaining, but the real game hero was Gnjidic, who put the lead at 69-59 with 3 minutes remaining, even though Lasko never said die. The result was lowered by Pavic and Kuqo, with his first three-pointer, in a 5-0 run that cut the deficit to 69-64 again. Then Pavic measured off another triple and the lead was down to a single basket. But Duscak was up to the challenge. His next three-pointer led Krka breath with a 72-69 advantage with a minute left. Drama was still in the air, but Kobale's foul put Capin on the line for a pair of free throws that iced the outcome and the series.
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Jernej Tisu, Novo Mesto