Cibona became the last team to make it to the Top 16 when it dispatched visiting Efes Pilsen 60-49 at home in Zagreb on Thursday. Cibona needed to beat Efes and wait for Olympiacos to simultaneously beat Armani Jeans in Milano, and that's just what happened. As such, Cibona finished sixth in Group B with a 6-8 record, sealing a ticket to the Top 16 as the best-sixth ranked team. Meanwhile, Efes ended its run in Group B with a 9-5 record, tied withMaccabi Tel Aviv, but feel to second for having lost by more points in the two games they split. Scoonie Penn led Cibona on Thursday, posting 28 points on 10-for-17 shooting, 7 assists and 6 steals. Bennett Davison added 10 points for Cibona. Nikola Prkacin was the only Efes scorer in double digits, with 14 points against his former team, while Kerem Gonlum grabbed 14 rebounds for the guests. Cibona led 34-28 at halftime, after which an outstanding Penn helped the hosts boost their margin to 54-42 and cruise into the Top 16.
Marin Rozic and Davison lifted Cibona to a fast 4-0 start and soon Scoonie Penn added 4 points of his own to make it 8-2. Antonio Granger posted free throws to stop the Croatian avalanche, but Penn stepped up with a triple as Cibona pulled by 7 points, but Marko Popovic copied him in the following play for an 11-7 score. The hosts had a perfect percentage from the field so far and Efes struggled in offense inside, but Granger's triple pulled the guests within 13-11 in a few moments. Penn fed Damir Rancic inside to pop a bucket and Efes did the same at last through Prkacin to put a 16-13 score. However, the hosts pulled to 20-13 when Davison scored free throws but Efes also replied with a 0-4 when Gonlum made it 20-17.
Prkacin opened the second quarter with a layup but Davor Kus soon added a triple to launch Cibona to a 25-19 score. But Prkacin was active and he posted a new free throw to reach his eighth point when Rozic committed his third foul and sat on the bench. But Davor Marcelic found a space on the arc to drill a three that launched Cibona to a 30-22 score. A new triple by Kus stopped Efes's shy reaction after Cenk Akyol free throws, but defenses took over and in the final two minutes of the half, only Kaya Peker scored for Efes to put a 34-28 score at the break.
Penn's new triple opened the second half for Cibona but Prkacin was still active inside for Efes. The personal duel between Prkacin and Penn continued as the latter posted 4 straight points for a 41-32 Cibona lead. Granger finally stepped in for Efes with free throws but Penn seemed to be the only offensive option as he scored his 9th point in the quarter, but with Popovic back on court, Efes played faster, as he fed Gonlum for a 43-37 Cibona lead that forced a timeout of the hosts. Damir Markota finally added points for Cibona as both teams traded fast baskets including a fastbreak layup by Rozic for 49-40. A new personal burst by Penn with 5 straight points for a Cibona double-digit lead after 30 minutes, 54-42.
Efes tried a zone defense to start the last quarter, and Penn was still the scorer of Cibona with 2 free throws. More than 4 minutes went by without points as defenses took over in the game. Rozic broke the spell from the line again, and Gonlum scored Efes's first basket with free throw after 6 minutes to put a 58-45. Peker also appeared for Efes but it was too late as with three minutes left Cibona controlled the game at ease thanks to a perfect conduction by Penn, who scored his 28th point as Cibona cruised to an easy win by 60-49 and clinched the last Top 16 berth by being the best sixth team of the regular season.
Thursday, February 9, 2006