They will remember Week 9 of the 2003-04 Euroleague regular season in Basket City for a long time. In Bologna, Italy on Wednesday, the Group B game between Skipper and Panathinaikos turned into an epic battle for survival. The Greek visitors escaped victorious, 114-118, after two overtimes and 50 minutes. Panathinaikos was ahead by slim margins throughout the 40 minutes but the hosts, thanks to a monster Milos Vujanic, who finished with 34 points, including 8 of 13 triples, rallied to force both extra sessions. The roles were inverted in the extra periods as Skipper was always ahead, except in the decisive moments. With six of its players fouled out, the Italian team saw the Greens jump ahead and Nikos Hatzivrettas seal the victory from the free throw line, ending Skipper's four-game winning streak. The win ties both teams in third place at 5-4. Jaka Lakovic led the winners with 29 points including 4 of 8 triples. Nikos Hatzivrettas and Arriel McDonald bagged 20 each, Mike Batiste added 16 and Haris Mujezinovic had a double-double of 13 points and 12 boards. For Skipper, Hanno Mottola had 20 points, Marco Belinelli added 14, Thomas Van den Spiegel 13 and Stefano Mancinelli, 12.
Hanno Mottola and Thomas Van den Spiegel opened the scoring for Skipper and the hosts went up 4-0. As Panathinaikos switched defenses, Marco Belinelli pulled down an offensive board for 6-0 but Batiste hit a dunk plus foul, Van den Spiegel's second, to make it 6-3 and get Panathinaikos going. Skipper was forced into 24-second clock violations, while Batiste added a couple more dunks to his repertoire and Panathinaikos was within 13-9. The Greens countered with a 0-7 run to jump ahead after Jaka Lakovic's triple, 13-14. Haris Mujezinovic also scored from downtown to give Panathinaikos a 15-19 edge but a triple by Belinelli plus a Matjaz Smodis dunk before the buzzer gave Skipper the 20-19 lead after one quarter.
Skipper was still nervous and they went almost four minutes with no points, which caused coach Jasmin Repesa to call for a timeout. However, Panathinaikos didn't do much better and only managed to pull a 3-point lead out of the scoring drought of the hosts, 20-23, until Erazem Lorbek scored for 22-23. It was time for local hero Milos Vujanic to step on court, and with two straight triples he gave air back to his team, 28-27. Darryl Middleton started top take over on both ends for the Greens, but Vujanic still had some more time for a three-point play for 34-29. After Middleton and Pozzecco went on scoring runs, a steal by Middleton allowed Arriel McDonald to run the fastbreak and shoot a deadly triple at the buzzer to make it 38-42 for the Greek team.
The second half started with a dunk by Mancinelli and Vujanic soared with two more straight triples to put his team ahead again, 46-44. McDonald dunked on the fastbreak for 46-49 at the same time as Middleton had to leave the fllor due to his fourth foul. Van den Spiegel tied again at 49-49, but for the Greens, Mujezinovic took over to become the decisive man under the boards, as Lakovic kept driving Skipper's defense crazy and Hatzivrettas nailed a triple for 51-54. The main flaw of Skipper was the lack of strength in the defensive rebounding department and the Greens used that for a 7-13 partial and took a 58-67 lead after 30 minutes.
The last quarter was an agony for both teams. Batiste scored from 5 meters to give a 9-point lead to Panathinaikos, but Vujanic blasted two straight triples again to put his team back in the fight, 69-72, and Belinelli joined the party for 72-74. Lakovic nailed three free throws attempts but Skipper's fast breaks made it 78-80 with 1 minutes and 43 seconds to go. The game entered the last minute with a triple by Hatzivrettas for 80-85 but Panathinaikos would score no more, and free throws by Vujanic and Delfino put a 83-85 with 8 seconds to go. Delfino missed his second attempt and Belinelli tied the game at the buzzer to force overtime.
In the first extra session, Mottola hit 6 fast points for Skipper and Vujanic his seventh triple in 11 attempts. When Lakovic scored 2 free throws for 92-90, Pozzecco started a parade of fouled-out Skipper players going to the bench. Skipper pulled ahead 95-91, but another deadly triple by Hatzivrettas would put the score at 97-96. A layup by Batiste with 40 seconds to go put the guests ahead again, 97-98, but an eighth triple by Vujanic made it 100-98. However, 2 last free throws by Hatzivrettas tied the game at 100-100, and Vujanic missed a last triple that sent the game to the second overtime. Vujanic scored his 34th point to start the second extra period, but guarding Lakovic, he committed his fifth foul leaving Skipper without its best weapon. Another triple by Lakovic tied the game at 104-104 and another one of his drives put the Greens ahead, 107-108. Skipper players kept going to the bench and the ones with less minutes started to pour in: Roberto Fultz, Patricio Prato. Two free throws by Batiste made it 113-116 with 7 seconds to go, and Fultz went to the line. He scored the first attempt but deliberately missed the second even though Skipper players could not pull the board, and Hatzivrettas received a last foul that would send him to the line to seal the game.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004