Lamont Jones came through on both ends of the floor to lead Lukoil Academic to a 68-66 win over his former team, Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem, on Tuesday night in Sofia, Bulgaria. Jones scored the winning basket on a drive with 12.2 seconds remaining and then stole the ball on the other end to make the lead stand up as the Bulgarian champs improved to 2-1 in Group C. Jerusalem, which led by 4 with two minutes to go but didn't score again, fell to 1-2. Jones, who finished with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, was only one of several heroes for the home team. Gjorgji Cekovski scored a career-high 20 points, while hitting 5-of-7 three-points and grabbing 8 rebounds. Center Mate Skelin, who joined the team on Sunday, was a factor inside with 15 points and 10 boards. Riste Stefanov adde four threes on his way to a career-high 16 points. They made up for Todor Stoykov, the ULEB Cup all-time leading scorer, who scored a career-low 5 points, and the fact that the team made an appalling 17-of-33 free throws. Mario Austin led Hapoel with 22 points, but was limited to 22 minutes due to foul trouble. Timmy Bowers added 10 for Hapoel, which made just 2-of-12 three-pointers.
Stoykov opened the scoring from the line and then Cekovski began a three-point shooting barrage for the hosts. Austin and Bowers gave Jerusalem a brief lead, but Lukoil went back on top with Cekovski's next triple and extended the advantage when Stefanov drilled his first shot from beyond the arc. Austin and Bowers continued to be the only scoring threats for Hapoel, while Skelin came off the bench and found his way to the basket for Lukoil, which ended the opening period ahead 20-17. Georgi Davidov put Lukoil up 5 at the start of the second period, but Bowers and Austin answered before Meir Tapiro's first points gave the visitors a 22-23 lead. Stefanov dropped a triple in and Lamont Jones made his first free throw of the season as the hosts regained control. Hapoel had trouble on the offensive end, but Austin's persistence on the offensive boards paid off as Jerusalem remained close. Stefanov's next triple made it 32-27, but Matan Naor's three and Guy Pnini's layup on the final play of the period made saw the teams head to the locker rooms tied 32-32.
Jones exploited a mis-match to penetrate for an easy bucket that returned the lead to Lukoil at the start of the third period. Hapoel found ways to tie the score as the teams traded baskets until Cekovski's three put the hosts up 40-36. Jurica Golemac made two from the line and Erez Marckovich scored 3 the hard way to shift the lead back to Hapoel, but Stefanov came right back with a three for Lukoil. Stoykov added a fast break basket and then Cekovski dropped in his fourth three of the night to give the hosts their biggest lead, 47-41. After a Jerusalem timeout, the visitors picked up their game, but still couldn't find a way to finish inside and remained behind at the end of the third quarter, 49-45. Tamar Slay netted a jumper to start the fourth quarter, and soon Bowers go the team within 51-50 from the free-throw line. Slay then capped a 0-6 spurt with a three that gave Hapoel a 2-point lead. Skelin converted a three-point play to swing the lead back to Lukoil, Golemac answered to tie it 55-55 from the line midway through the fourth quarter. Jerusalem kept the momentum, riding Austin and Slay to a 55-61 lead. But a quick Jones basket was followed by a Slay airball and a Stefanov triple to keep Lukoil in the game. Only poor free-throw shooting from Cekovski and Skelin kept the hosts from tying the score. Cekovski nailed another three, reaching 20 points for the first time in his ULEB Cup career, but more importantly bringing his team within 65-66 with 1:20 remaining. After a Jerusalem miss, Cekovski tied the score from the line. Bowers tried to carry Hapoel back, but his attempted pass to Ed Cota wound up with Jones, who penetrated to give Lukoil a lead with 12.2 seconds on the clock. Bowers again took the ball, but his pass was again cut off by Jones who ran out the clock for a big Lukoil win.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006