Montepaschi Siena remained the exclusive Group C leader and can now see a clear path to the elimination rounds after rallying to edge Alba Berlin 71-73 in the German capital before 4,725 fans on Tuesday. Montepaschi improved its record to 5-1 and may mathematically qualify next week if it beats Hapoel Migdal at home and either Telindus Oostende or Alba lose on the road. Meanwhile, Alba dropped to 2-4 and joins a three-way tie for the decisive fourth spot along with Hapoel and Oostende. Joseph Forte led the winners with 15 points, Rimantas Kaukenas added 13 while Vladimer Boisa had 11 for Montepaschi. Chris Owens had 19 points for Alba, Nenad Canak added 17 on 7-for-9 shooting off the bench while Koko Archibong tallied 12 for the hosts, whose guard Demond Greene was hospitalized with a leg injury in the first half. Alba led 42-32 at halftime and still kept a 60-53 margin after three quarters. Kaukenas and Lonny Baxter fueled a 0-8 run that brought Montepaschi back into the game. The game went down to the wire as a three-pointer by Canak brought Alba within 70-71. Terrell McIntyre made free throws to preserve the victory for Montepaschi.
Alba starters William Avery and Sharrod Ford, not at their best due to sickness, began the game on the bench, so Owens proved to be Alba's main option in the early minutes of a game that was dominated right away by defense. Forte hit a triple while Kaukenas and Boisa had the shot clock on their side while boosting Montepaschi ahead 8-13. Soon, Archibong, Owens and Demonmd Greene converted the fruits of Alba's defense to points that put the hosts in front, 15-13. Greene went down what looked like a serious leg injury and had to be carried off on a stretcher to be hospitalized, delaying the game briefly. Alba continued to dominate inside with 6 more points by Owens, answered only by a pair of triples from Boisa that cut Alba's lead to 21-19 after one quarter. Also in the second quarter, Montepaschi struggled against Alba's merciless defense and committed several turnovers while Canak's hot hand put Alba ahead 34-24. Terrel McIntyre came off the bench for Montepaschi and scored his first points from the arc. Romain Sato earned 3 points on free throws from his penetration moves, but Ruben Boumtje Boumtje hit a hook shot, Ford and Archibong jumpers to help Alba save a 42-32 halftime advantage.
After the break, Avery hit his first three-pointer and dished to Boumtje Boumtje, whose reverse layup spiked Alba's lead to 47-34. Montepaschi answered with a game-turning 0-10 blast. Kaukenas with a pair of quick drives and Forte with 2 three-pointers got Montepaschi back into the game quickly, at 47-44. Lonny Baxter's free throws made it even closer, 47-46. Alba struggled during this time against Montepaschi's zone defense, but soon Archibong and Canak gave the hosts new air to breath with a shot each from downtown. Ford and Canak added jumpers, but Montepaschi stayed in touch with the lead by hitting free throws. Owens had the last word of the third quarter, a jumper that kept Alba up by 60-53. Kaukenas showed to start the final quarter that he was not willing to give in, hitting a triple and free throws after a steal. Baxter finally completed the comeback with a game-tying dunk at 60-60, but then had to leave with his fifth foul. Both teams raised their defensive intensity levels once more as the game remained scoreless for a couple minutes until Shaun Stonerook 's free throw gave Montepaschi a 61-60 lead. After Kaukenas also fouled out, Archibong tied for Alba with his own free throw. Forte hit a layup, but Canak unloaded a huge three-pointer to put Alba back in command 64-63. Soon, however, McIntyre and Sato made free throws that had Montepaschi ahead by 66-70 before Canak hit another triple and Montepaschi's next offense was stopped by the shot-clock. A turnover forced Alba to stop the clock with a foul when 10 seconds were left. Sato hit 1 of 2 free throws, as did Avery a few seconds later, which gave McIntyre a chance to seal the 71-73 victory at the foul line.
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Horst Schneider, Berlin