Lottomatica joined the club of Euroleague winners in style on Thursday by rallying from 14 down in the second half to nip Union Olimpija 80-79 before a happy crowd in Roma. A dramatic finish concluded with Marko Tusek, a former Olimpija player, sinking the winning free throw with time already expired after a referee whistled a foul on Olimpija almost simultaneously with the buzzer. Tusek and Alex Rhigetti both led Lottmatica, who played without top scorer Carlton Myers, with 18 points each. Rashard Griffith added 11 points for the winners and Corey Alexander 10. Olimpija got 14 points from Simon Petrov, 11 from Marko Maravic and 10 from Roberts Stelmahers. Lottomatic raised its Group A record to 1-4, while Olimpija saw its third loss in a row and sits at 2-3.
Roma took the floor without Myers, who sat with back problems, but his replacement, Davide Bonora, got the first basket of the game. However, soon after Alex Rhiggeti hit the game's first triple for Roma, Olimpija big man Dzenan Rahimic, who had missed a game with his own injury, returned with a basket that put the visitors up 5-6. Lead changes would persist throughout the quarter, 7 of them in all to go with 2 ties. Bennermen's triple got the lead back for Roma, and Rhigetti soon pushed it to 12-8 at the free throw line, but Olimpija soon responded. A triple and a layup by Maravic shot Olimpija ahead 12-13, and with 4 points by Roberts Stelmahers, the visitors had a 2-9 run and a 14-17 lead. Maravic rose up for another triple that took the visitors to a 15-20 advantage after 10 minutes.
Roma's newest player, Alexander, made a fine entrance with a triple to open the second quarter, and when Rhigetti copied him, the hosts were within 24-26. Alexander free throws soon tied, as did 2 more by Cal Bowdler at 30-30 and a dunk by Marko Tusek at 32-32. But the locals couldn't grab a lead yet. That remained with Olimpija after Saso Ozbolt buried a shot from downtown, and within a couple minutes, Simon Petrov added his own for the guests. Down 35-40, Roma needed to react but could not score against the Olimpija defense in the remaining 2 minutes. Meanwhile, Rahimic got loose inside for a basket and Petrov finished a 3-13 Olimpija run at the foul line. As such, the visitors took to the lockers with a solid 35-44 advantage.
Neither team could score after halftime as 4 minutes passes with only 2 baskets to show for them. A Lubos Barton layup and a dunk by Olimpija's Aloysius Anagonye kept the difference at 9 points, 37-46. By the time Vladimer Boisa and Marino Bazdaric let go back-to-back three-pointers for Olimpija, 26 minutes had passed and the visitors led by 13 points, 41-54. Only Tusek, with 6 consecutive points of his own. After another triple by Boisa, followed shortly by his teammate Smiljan Pavic striking from downtown, too, it took a Bowdler layypu just for Roma to keep the deficit below a dozen. 49-61, after 30 minutes.
Little seemed ready to change through the early part of the final quarter, and in fact yet another Olimpija triple, this one by Bazdaric, bumped the lead to 54-66. Barton answered from downtown as well for Roma but a couple minutes passed without much change until Rhigetti drilled his own for a 62-68 scoreboard. Still, Petrov's drive-plus-foul shot returned the Olimpija lead to 9 points and a Stelmaher's layup made it 10 again, 63-73, with 4 minutes left. Another minute passed and Rahimic scored to keep the lead at nine, 66-75. Then, Roma started making its move with an inside basket by Griffith and a pair of free throws by Tusek. After an exchange of free throws, Olimpija's lead stood at 71-78 with under 1 minute left. Then a Bennerman layup, Olimpija turnover and three-point strike by Alexander made things serious again, 76-78, as the Roma crowd roared its approval. Ozbolt added a free throw to Olimpija's lead, but Tusek came up with the big triple to tie, 79-79, with 27 seconds left. Stelmahers took Olimpija's last shot but missed, and in the fight for the rebound a referee's whistle and the buzzer were heard at once. After a brief consultation with the scorer's table, a foul was called on Boisa and Tusek, a former Olimpija player, went to the line. His first free throw fell through to the chagrin of Olimpija but the joy of Rome's win-starved fans.
Thursday, December 4, 2003
Alessio Ditta, Rome