Montepaschi ended Telindus Oostende's hopes of a spot in the elimination rounds with a 73-62 win in the Group C finale on Tuesday in Siena, Italy. Montepaschi, which had already clinched first place in the group, improved to 8-2, Oostende, which needed to win to advance to the next stage, dropped to 4-6 and finished the regular season in last place. Elvir Ovcina helped the visitors out to a big, early lead, but Motepaschi fought back to take a 38-36 halftime advantage. The Siena held Oostende to a mere 9 third-quarter points as its lead grew to double figures and Rimantas Kaukenas came up strong down the stretch to secure the victory. Kaukenas, Lonny Baxter and Terrell McIntyre led Montepaschi with 16 apiece and Joseph Forte added 10. Baxter also had 9 rebounds and 4 steals. Rashard Wright had 13 for Oostende, Ovcina and Eric Hicks 12 each and Lavar Postell 11 points and 5 assists. Ovcina and Hicks also cleaned the glass, finishing with 12 and 10, respectively.
Ostende raced out to a fast start with Ovcina on fire, scoring 7 straight points from the perimeter and under the basket. Siena tried to stay in the game with Kaukenas's three-pointers making it 6-11. Oostende coach Sharon Drucker used a 2-3 zone defense to cover the arc, but Forte answered with an other triple to reduce the hosts' deficit to 9-13. Ovcina was also a big force on defense, blocking Shaun Stonerook and unleashing Wright on a fastbreak to make it 10-17. Five straight points by Lonny Baxter brought Siena closer as Ostende continued to struggle from the free-throw line (4-for-9 after 8 minutes), but Wright nailed an incredible triple as the 24-second clock expired to put Telindus up 15-21. Siena answered with a dunk by Luigi Datome, but the first quarter ended with Ostende ahead 17-22. After some quiet minutes, McIntyre appeared with a pair of three-pointers to put Montepaschi ahead for the first time. Baxter added three points of his own to cap a 9-0 run for the hosts. Ostende didn't wait to respond and took the lead again through Postell and Hicks. But two turnovers in a row by Ovcina and an 8-2 run sparked by McIntyre and Baxter gave Siena a 5-point advantage. Wright's jumper fixed the score at 38-36 at halftime.
The second half started with 2 minutes of turnovers and missed shots for both teams. Ocvina broke the ice with a dunk, which was followed by Forte, who maintained a 2-point lead for Siena. Sam Van Rossom blasted the tie in an awful third quarter, but Romain Sato and Forte answered from downtown, pushing Siena to 47-43. The hosts were more aggressive alternating zone and man defenses and added other 6 free throws with Sato, Baxter and Forte making it 53-43. Hicks tried to reduce the difference, but at the end of the third quarter, the score was 54-45. A Datome three-pointer and a Kaukenas layup helped Siena to build a double digit-margin at the beginning of the fourth quarter. A flagrant foul by Postell on Stonerook gave Montepaschi the chance to increase the lead, but the hosts earned owned only 1 point and in the following play, Van Rossom reduced to 60-49. Two free throws by Wright brought Oostende back within 9, but Kaukenas answered with basket and foul to make it 63-51 as the clock became more of a factor, showing only three-and-a-half minutes to go. Oostende's best efforts reduced Siena's lead to 65-57, but Kaukenas once again switched shut the visitors down and effectively ended their season as Montepaschi fans celebrated a 73-62 win and the first place in group C.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007