Montepaschi became the first team to make it to the elimination rounds in Group C by beating Khimki 74-66 in Siena, Italy on Tuesday night. Montepaschi improved to 6-2 and not only mathematically advanced to the next round, but it need to win one of its two remaining games to become the Group C champion. Meanwhile, Khimki joins a three-way tie for the second place in Group B with Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem and Lukoil Academic. Joseph Forte led the winners with 17 points, Rimantas Kaukenas and Romain Sato each added 14 while Lonny Baxter grabbed 13 rebounds for Montepaschi. Kelly McCarty had 17 points for Khimki while Ruben Wolkowyski added 12. Montepaschi led 36-34 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 17-2 run which Kaukenas capped with a jumper to break the game for good, 53-36. Aleksey Savkov and McCarty brought Khimki within 71-66 but a three-pointer by Forte sealed the win down the stretch.
After an early triple from McCarty, Shaun Stonerook dunked it to make it 6-5, but his second foul made coach Simone Pianigiani replace him by Vladimer Boisa. Khimki went on a 0-6 run which McCarty capped with a jumper, but a layup by Forte and a mid-range jumper by Sato kept Montepaschi alive, 10-11. Ben Eze fought hard under the boards and stepped up with two blocked shots, but a fast break layup by Maciej Lampe kept Khimki ahead, 10-15. Forte fired in a three-pointer and Kaukenas added a layup which pushes the hosts to a 15-15 tie at the end of first quarter. Sato got off to a red-hot start with 4 points early in the second quarter while Kaukenas added a basket-plus-foul which made Montepaschi a 24-17 lead. Baxter hit free throws for Montepaschi but a jumper by Wolkowyski and free throws by McCarty got Khimki within 26-22. Luigi Datome stepped up with a jumper and Kaukenas paced Montepaschi with a three-pointer for a 31-24 lead. Vladimir Veremeenko scored off a steal but Baxter matched it with a fast break layup. Forte found his second three-pointer to make it 36-28 but Khimki finally found its rhythm after scoring just 5 free throws in 4 minutes. McCarty had 4 points in a 0-6 run which Lampe capped with a put-back layup to get Khimki within 36-34 at halftime.
Eze got Montepaschi going with a three-point play, igniting a 8-0 opening run after the break in which Sato hit a triple and Stonerook dunked it to get a 44-34 lead. Vereemenko hit free throws for Khimki, but Sato scored again, McIntyre drew a flagrant foul on Torres which allowed Boisa to bury a triple to make it 51-36. When Kaukenas found the fast break again adding a layup for 53-36, it looked like Siena was pulling away for good. Ademola Okulaja and Wolkowyski tried to change things for Khimki, which now tried a 2-3 zone defense. Sato punished it with a three-pointer but a 0-8 run which McCarty capped with a jumper brought Khimki within 59-50. Siena had committed three straight turnover, but free throws by McIntyre gave the hosts a 61-50 margin after three quarters. The last period opened as a chess game with a Montepaschi 3-2 zone facing Khimki's 2-3. Baxter and Kaukenas scored for Siena while Eze dunked it to make it a 15-point game, 71-56. Khimki was not done, however, as Savkov stroke twice from downtown in a 0-12 Khimki run which McCarty capped with a layup to get the guests within 71-66. Forte buried a triple with 1:18 to go and the game was over for Khimki when Savkov missed 2 free throws. Montepaschi left the court with a win which seal its ticket for the elimination rounds, giving all its fans a beautiful Christmas present.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Federico Cappelli, Euroleague.net