Umana Reyer Venice finished the 7DAYS EuroCup Regular Season in style by grabbing its eighth straight win to tie Segafredo Virtus Bologna for the best record in the competition at 8-2. But the task wasn’t easy against Rytas Vilnius, who visited Palasport Talaercio aiming for a win to claim a better position in the group. Even though the Italian champs led for almost the whole game, Rytas never gave up and came back several times to take Reyer to the edge.
The answer that Reyer needed to win came from an unexpected source. With regular contributors like Gasper Vidmar and Julyan Stone sidelined and knowing that Mitchell Watt and Jeremy Chappel were not at their best and that the Top16 will demand a lot from his team, Coach De Rafaelle decided to look at his bench to look for something different. And he found it.
Davide Casarin, Francesco Pellegrino and Valerio Mazzola had played just one Eurocup game so far this season and had been scoreless. Casarin, a 16-year old teenager, played just 1:50’ against Partizan NIS Belgrade in Round 1, while Mazzola saw just 1:48 of playing time against Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Round 7 and Pellegrino only 44 seconds against Partizan NIS Belgrade in Round 6. None of them had hit a shot, as only Mazzola had tried a two-point shot and a three in limited playing time.
Against Rytas, all of them seized the opportunity to prove to their coach that they are ready for the challenge and that he can count on them in the Top16. Casarin played 13:40’, scored 4 points on 2-of-2 two-point shooting and dished 3 assists, including a highlight-reel pass to Ike Udanoh in the second quarter. Pellegrino played 14:33 and posted 8 points and 3 rebounds on a perfect shooting night; his performance index rating of 11 was third-best on the team on Wednesday. And last, but not least, Mazzola played 19:27, contributing 5 rebounds and a key three-pointer with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
Their performance did not go unnoticed for Coach De Raffaele, who looked pleased after the game but not only because of the win: "The most important thing is that all my players were involved in this game, especially those who during this competition had played few minutes and that’s very important, also for young players. It is important that we won this game because it has been the eighth in a row and that’s not only because of just good luck. It’s something for the job the players have done."
One of those players is Pellegrino, who could barely hide his feelings right after the final whistle: "It’s a great emotion for me as it’s the second time I've played in the EuroCup. I love this game and I think I will dream about this tonight."