Cibona VIP survived a Group A shootout for a 95-86 home victory against old rival Union Olimpija on Wednesday in a game that was not decided until the closing minutes. Cibona evened its record at 3-3, which might be good for third or fourth through fifth place at the end of the first leg, depending of the final result of its Week 5 game against Ulker, which is scheduled for replay. Olimpija dropped its fourth game in the last five and is now 3-4, sixth place at the moment. Cibona was ahead most of Wednesday's game thanks to Slaven Rimac and Jurica Golemac, and the leadership of Scoonie Penn on the floor. Marino Bazdaric kept Olimpija close until Rimac, Penn and Andrija Zizic put Cibona ahead for good in the final period. Rimac led the winners with 25 points including 3 of 5 triples. Zizic added 17, Golemac bagged 16 and Penn drilled 11 points and dished 8 assists. For the guests, Bazdaric led the way with 28 points, Marko Maravic added 17 and Vladimer Boisa and Roberts Stelmahers chipped in with 11 apiece.
From the very beginning, Cibona showed good signs of team play, but there was a leader that stood out, Slaven Rimac. His triple earned Cibona a lead of 5-4 after Olimpija had jumped ahead. Marino Bazdaric proved to be Rimac's counterpart as the first would end the first half with 14 points and the latter 15. But while Bazdaric only had real help from Marko Maravic on Olimpija, all the Cibona seemed to have something to give. After Bazdaric's next trile, Jurica Golemac answered with a three-point play for 8-9, but that was just the start of a 10-0 Cibona run based on points by Rimac and Scoonie Penn. Vladimer Boisa sank a triple from the right corner to break the run of the hosts and Maravic copied him to pull Olimpija within 17-16. Boisa added 4 more points of his own, but Marijan Mance with a triple and Rimac with a new basket left the hosts ahead by 1 after 10 minutes, 26-25.
Rimac was the go-to guy in Cibona as he finished plays in all manners, be they jumpers or fastbreak layups. Inside, Olimpija committed too many mistakes that allowed the hosts to pull away thanks to 5 straight points by Golemac, 36-27. Olimpija tried a 2-3 zone defense to force long shots on Cibona, but Mance responded right away with his triple to earn the first double-digit lead of the night, 39-29. Maravic and Bazdaric kept on pouring in points for the guests, while now it was the turn of Andrija Zizic and Davor Kus to come off the bench and nail Cibona's next 8 points. Penn joined the party with another three-point play for 52-37. Olimpija was practically out of the game when Bazdaric and Maravic emerged with decisive triples in the final minutes of the half to leave Olimpija just 8 points off the pace, 52-44, at the break.
Things went better for Olimpija in the third quarter as the guests managed to cut the deficit little by little, as Bazdaric scored for 56-51. Golemac tried to keep Cibona ahead but Bazdaric climbed to 20 points from the free throw line for a 58-56 scoreboard. Penn kept driving Cibona forward, but 4 straight points by Olimpija thanks to Smiljan Pavic and Maravic tied the game 60-60 and forced a Cibona timeout. Cibona dominated under the boards (35-27 at the end of the game), but the accuracy by Bazdaric and Maravic coincided with an offensive lull by Cibona. Rimac decided to fix the situation and posted 5 consecutive points, including a triple. When, in the last minutes of the third quarter, Cibona opened a six-point gap, Bazdaric was ready with 2 more three-pointers to cut the deficit for Olimpija to 74-73 after 30 minutes.
In the last quarter, things improved for Cibona again with a 7-0 run sealed by a triple from Kus. The 81-73 scoreboard put Olimpija in a difficult situation. The defense of the guests allowed too many open shots to Cibona, and when that was not the case, Rimac emerged to sink a bank shot on the 24-second buzzer. Roberts Stelmahers took Bazdaric's place in Olimpija as he nailed 2 triples and 2 free throws that kept the guests close, at 89-84, but the clock showed only 2 minutes and 20 seconds until the end. Soon Penn was there to secure the win for Cibona, as apart from his passes, he also scored an unbelievable jumper from the right side for a 91-84 lead. And with only 80 seconds to go, Rimac neutralized Maravic's basket from downtown to seal the win for the hosts, 94-86.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Neven Berticevic, Zagreb