After all but one game of the regular season already played, it cannot be any clearer that Group D is the most balanced in the ULEB Cup. Cholet of France made sure of that on Tuesday by turning back what had been the longtime leader of the group, Metis Varese, by 85-74, to heighten the suspense of the final week. That suspense is visible with a four-way tie for first place, but Varese (5-4) is fortunate enough to know that it will come out on top in any eventual ties and therefore can punch its ticket to the next round. Cholet (4-5) has one more game to win, however, on the road next week at Caprabo Lleida (5-4) in a winner-take-all showdown for the right to advance. Considering how it lost its first four games, Cholet is on a dramatic run. The next-to-last stop on Tuesday saw Tony Stanly make 5 of 11 three-pointers en route to a team-high 25 points. K'Zell Wesson ruled on the inside with a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds. And Richard 'Scooter' Barry nailed 18 points and almost had his own rare double-double with 9 assists. All that was combined with defense that held Varese to poor shooting percentage (38.8% on field goals). Still, the visitors had three scorers in double digits, led by Shawnelle Scott with 19 points. Boris Gorenc, the scoring leader in the Italian League, was held to just 17 points on 5-for-15 shooting, while Paolo Conti posted a double-double with more rebounds, 14, than points, 12.
The game was dominated by defense and the resulting poor percentages for shooters. It was close and balanced in the first period when nobody was able to take a big advanatge and the two teams tied 21-21 at the buzzer. The home team found a decisive run after 3 minutes of the second quarter and arrived at the break with 44-34 on the scoreboard. The duo of Barry and Stanley was the main weapon to keep away the Italian guests. Varese, with Zanus Fortes, Francesco Vescovi and Rusty Larue still sidelined, tried to rally in the third period, but Cholet never lost its control and was able to manage the score and answered each time Varese mmoved closer. The scoreboard read 68-58 the score at the end of 30 minutes, and also in the last quarter, Varese never found the way to be a real threat. Cholet's unlikely run for the next round was still alive, even though the confluence of ties now assured that Varese would be there, too.
Tuesday, January 7, 2003