Montepaschi Siena became the first team to advance to the 2008 Euroleague Basketball Final Four on Thursday with a 65-86 victory over Fenerbahce Ulker at the Abdi Ipekci Sports Hall in Istanbul Turkey. The Italian champs swept the best-of-three Quarterfinal Playoffs series to secure a ticket to Madrid for the team’s third Final Four of the decade. Montepaschi dictated the game all night building a double-digit lead in the first quarter. Fenerbahce fought back in the second, cut the gap to 34-37 and Willie Solomon’s jumper at the start of the second half made it a whole new game as the hosts got within 1 point. However Montepaschi responded with 16 unanswered points to put the game away. And when Fener hinted of a comeback in the fourth quarter, a 0-12 charge gave the visitors a 24-point lead and ended all doubts. Ksistof Lavrinovic, making his second start of the season and first since October, was 4 for 4 from downtown for 18 points to lead Montepaschi. Bootsy Thornton also scored 18, Terrell McIntyre had 16 points and 6 assists and Romain Sato finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Omer Asik finished with 12 points and Willie Solomon had 11 for the Turkish champs, who shot 4 for 19 from behind the arc and committed 17 turnovers.
Lavrinovic got the visitors going with a three-pointer. It took Fener over two minutes to get its first basket, which came on a Rasim Basak pull-up jumper. Montepaschi looked to run away early as a Shaun Stonerook basket-plus-foul and a McIntyre triple made it 2-9. Gasper Vidmar stepped up on the defensive end, planting himself in front of Lavrinovic to draw the Montepaschi big man’s second foul and force him to the bench early. However points on the perimeter from Thornton and Stonerook kept the momentum with the visitors and after Solomon’s layup was ruled to be after the 24-second clock had expired, a Ben Eze basket and a Sato slam capped a 0-9 Montepaschi charge and made it 6-18, prompting head coach Bogdan Tanjevic to use Fener’s first timeout. Solomon came back and scored his first points and Vidmar cut through the Montepaschi defense for a power slam to indicate that Fener was back, but soon enough Sato drilled a triple and the visitors’ lead was up to 13. A Vidmar free throw cut the deficit to 15-25 after 10 minutes.
Mirsad Turkcan made his long-awaited return to action early in the second period, but was unable to cool off Montepaschi, as baskets Sato and Vlado Ilevski restored a 12-point lead. Tarense Kinsey worked the pick-and-roll with Semih Erden to set up the latter’s slam, but a Fener turnover soon led to a Sato slam on the fast break. Turkcan got a shooter’s roll to get his first points an a foul-line jumper and then Damir Mrsic drained Fener’s first three-pointer of the night after 7 tries to cut the gap to 28-33. An acrobatic Kinsey slam trimmed the gap to 4 and by the time Vidmar and Kinsey were done, Fener had closed the deficit to 34-37 and reopened the game for the second half.
Solomon drilled a long jumper to begin the third quarter and suddenly Fener was within a single point. Thornton and Lavrinovic made sure to keep Montepaschi ahead. McIntyre then shined with a triple and Lavrinovic added a hook shot as Montepaschi started to pull away. After Solomon missed from downtown, he was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Sato, leading to 2 free throws and then a Lavrinovic triple on the resulting possession made it 36-51. McIntyre added one more basket to cap a 0-16 charge and regain total control of the game. Asik finally ended the hosts’ drought with a basket in the paint. The visitors seemed to have an answer for every Fenerbahce basket and then a Marco Carroretto three-pointer from the top of the key made it 40-60. Omer Onan drilled 5 quick points, but a Fener turnover led to a Thomas Ress layup that ended the third quarter at 45-62.
Thornton restored the 20-point advantage with a triple to open the last period. Fenerbahce continued to battle as Asik and Turkcan scored inside, but a Lavrinovic triple dampened the home team’s hopes. Turkcan got open from outside to bring Fener within 56-68, but again Lavrinovic answered from downtown as Montepaschi began to eye the Final Four. The visitors slowed the game down to further limit any chances of a Fenerbahce comeback. Back-to-back McIntyre threes ended all doubts as Fenerbahce seemed to have given up and Montepaschi continued to score at ease, running the score up to 58-82 before a Solomon triple made it a bit more respectable in the closing minutes.
Thursday, April 3, 2008