Skipper Bologna thrilled a full house in Bologna by beating Italian rival Montepaschi Siena 95-86 to draw closer to the leaders in powerful Group B. Skipper improved to 3-3, while Montepaschi fell to the same record, with both currently tied for fourth place. The game was close throughout until Skipper pulled away in the final minutes of the fourth quarter thanks to an 11-2 partial that left Montepaschi trailing by 13 points with under 2 minutes remaining. Carlos Delfino came up with a clutch performance, leading Skipper with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Hanno Mottola also came up big with 17 points. Milos Vujanic hit for 16 points, including the game-clinching basket. Center Tomas Van Den Spiegel finished with 8 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks. Montepaschi got an inspired performance from Bootsy Thornton, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Mindaugas Zukauskas scored 17 points, Roberto Chiacig battled around the basket on his way to 14 points and 9 rebounds. Neither team managed to grab control of the game until Matjaz Smodis nailed a crucial three-pointer that gave Skipper a six-point lead with 3 minutes left. Montepaschi was unable to recover, as Skipper snatched key rebounds and refused the guests any open shots in the final minutes.
Both teams came out looking to run early, but a case of nerves seemed to cause several misses from close range. Skipper led 5-2 thanks to Van Den Spiegel's work on the offensive glass, but Montepaschi calmed down, nailing two consecutive triples during a 0-9 run to take a 5-11 lead. Zukauskas had the hot hand for Montepaschi, with 3 triples and 11 points in 7 minutes. His 6 straight points gave Montepaschi a 10-17 advantage and had Skipper on its heels. Skipper was struggling to put points on the board as guards Vujanic and Gianluca Basile combined to shoot just 2 for 9 during the first quarter. Montepaschi made Skipper pay for its turnovers by fastbreaking to a 16-23 advantage after 9 minutes. Vrbica Stefanov and Thornton relentlessly attacked the Skipper basket, scoring 4 quick points at the end of the quarter to give the guests a 19-27 lead.
Montepaschi looked ready to break the game open at the start of the second quarter, as substitute David Vanterpool immediately drilled a triple for a 19-30 scoreboard. But Skipper rose to the challenge behind a super Delfino. The hosts got back in the game with an 11-2 run keyed by Gianmarco Pozzecco's penetrations and stellar outside shooting. The intensity of the game heated up dramatically after David Andersen dunked with two hands in traffic for Montepaschi and then Delfino quickly responded on the other end with a deep three-pointer that made it 33-34. Montepaschi stayed calm and scored 6 straight points to push the lead back up to 33-40. But Delfino was playing his most inspired basketball of the season and scored his 11th point of the quarter on a coast-to-coast drive that put Skipper up 42-41 after 18 minutes. The teams traded baskets from then until halftime, when the hosts still led by the minimum, 48-47.
In the third quarter, every pass, shot and drive was tightly contested. The teams combined for just 9 points over the first three-and-a-half minutes. Skipper held its slight lead thanks to Mottola's 5 points and a Vujanic free throw that made it 57-53. Skipper missed on its next three possessions, however, and Montepaschi took advantage, grabbing a 57-58 lead after 26 minutes. Montepaschi found an effective source of offense with 5 straight fastbreak points. After Thornton hammered a dunk, the guests were now ahead, 59-63. Mottola, who scored 9 points in the quarter, kept Skipper close with his hard work around the basket and when Gianluca Basile sank his first three-pointer of the night, Skipper was within 67-68. The quarter ended with a familiar sight: Thornton drawing a foul and hitting his eighth free throw for a 67-69 Montepaschi advantage after three quarters.
Basile and Delfino nailed back-to-back triples to open the fourth quarter and swiftly give Skipper the lead back at 72-71. The game was as tense as ever, as neither team could find the basket for nearly 2 minutes until Pozzecco drained a three-pointer. Then, with Stefano Mancinelli's driving hoop for Skipper, Montepaschi suddenly found itself behind 77-71 with 6:18 to play and called a timeout to regroup. Coming out of the timeout, Montepaschi changed direction, looking inside to its big men, who chipped away at the Skipper lead by making 5 out of 6 free throws. After 2 foul shots by Roberto Chiacig, Montepaschi was within 3 points, 76-79, with 4 minutes to play. Skipper went for the kill now, however, as Smodis buried his three-pointer and then Pozzecco fed Mottola for a dunk and an 84-77 Skipper edge with just under 3 minutes. Montepaschi's attempt to fight back included a skirmish under the basket between Thornton and Smodis. The teams traded free-throws, but Skipper retained possession and on the next play Vujanic drove for a three-point play and an 89-79 Skipper advantage with just over 2 minutes left. Delfino's fade-away jumper soon ended the suspense, and Group B's two Italian representatives were even in the standings.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003