Grupo Dunas got into the elimination rounds the easy way early in the evening but proceeded to show it belonged by knocking off visiting Group A leader Lietuvos Rytas 72-67 later on Tuesday at home in Gran Canaria, Spain. Gran Canaria raised its record to 5-4 and can still challenge for a higher spot that its current fourth place in the last week of the regular season. L. Rytas fell to 6-3 and a three-way tie for first place with Nancy and Hemofarm. Gran Canaria only let the visitors taste the lead briefly until it could go ahead by double digits in the second half fight off a late Lietuvos Rytas comeback attempt. Jackson Vroman led the winners with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Jim Moran added 13 for Gran Canaria, David Kornel 12 and Marcus Norris 10. Kareem Rush had 20 points for L. Rytas, including some late ones to get his team close. Matt Nielsen was the only other double-figure scorer for the guests, with 13 points.
Gran Canaria began the game by going to the basket for a 6-0 head start on layups by David, Moran and Jimmie Lee Hunter. Nielsen and Arturas Jomantas kept L. Rytas in it until an 8-8 tie. Vroman's first basket was answered by L. Rytas guard Roberts Stelmahers, back early from injury, who soon popped a triple for his team's first lead, 12-13. The advantage went back and forth as Vroman, Andrius Slezas of L. Rytas and Moran traded scores. Joel Freeland added one for the hosts, but Mindaugas Lukaskis and Eurelijus Zukauskas were able to tie it up for L. Rytas, 18-18 after 10 minutes. Marcus Norris and Sitapha Savane combined on 7 quick points to put the hosts back in front 25-20 early in the second quarter, but Rush and Tomas Delininkaitis soon had it tied again at 27-27. A few players later, Rush gave L. Rytas another lead, 31-32, from downtown. Vroman then stepped up with Roberto Guerra as Gran Canaria's answer men in a 8-0 run that let the hosts cruise into the half ahead 39-34.
Nielsen single-handedly got L. Rytas within 39-37 after the break, and then Delininkaitis detonated a triple to make it 41-40. Vroman triggered the definitive Gran Canaria takeover with a layup to which Hunter and Moran added free throws. The hosts kept going inside and getting to the line until a three-point basket-plus-free throw by David was good for the game's first double-digit lead, 52-42. Morris soon popped a triple that helped it go higher, to 58-44, before Slezas replied from the arc and the third quarter ended 58-47. Rush got the difference back to single digits to start the final quarter, but Moran's next three-pointer returned it to 13 points, 62-49. That was the difference with 6 minutes left when Nielsen and Rush combined on 5 unanswered points to spark an L. Rytas revival. Vroman stalled it with 3-for-4 shooting at the line, but Jomantas and Rush, with his second triple of the quarter, got the guests back within 67-61. Rush kept rolling with a jumper and a layup, and suddenly it was 67-65 headed into the final minute. David calmed Gran Canaria with 2 good free throws, but Rush downed another shot late to keep up hope for L. Rytas. Now Hunter went to the line and hit both of his tries, after which Rush lost the ball and with it went his team's chances to stay ahead of the pack in Group A. Gran Canaria was in the hunt now, too, and with a tie-break advantage over L. Rytas should it come to that in the final week.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007