Former ULEB Cup champion L. Rytas kept alive its chances for another crown with a dramtic 65-60 victory over Snaidero Udine in the second and last game of their eighthfinal series on Tuesday in Vilnius, Lithuania. Snaidero had won the first game by 3 points, 75-72, so when Jerome Allen launched a three-point attempt with 4 seconds left, it would have put the visitors from Italy ahead in the series. Allen's shot missed, however, so Lietuvos advances to play either Nancy or Strasbourg in the quarterfinals. L. Rytas led by as much as 20-7 early in the second quarter before Snaidero came back to take narrow leads in the second half. To Snaidero's last lead, early in the fourth quarter, L. Rytas reacted with a 7-0 blast and then hung on to watch Allen's miss decide the series. Kareem Rush led the winners with 19 points, while Joao Paulo Batista added 11 and Janis Blums 10. Matt Nielsen had 12 rebounds as L. Rytas ruled on the boards, 46-30. Allen was Snaidero's only double-figure scorer, with 24 points, but he and his teammates made only 11 of 37 three-point attempts.
L. Rytas got on the scoreboard first with a free throw by Arturas Jomantas. The visitors chose to slow the game down but it didn't help as Rush dropped a triple on a fastbreak to make it 4-0. L. Rytas held Snaidero scoreless for more than 4 minutes to start the game, but the hosts couldn't make a shot themselves as the score stayed still. Allen broke the silence with a penetration layup before Marijonas Petravicius answered with a layup. Damon Williams and Jomantas exchanged baskets as Snaidero seemed to have found a rhythm, but Rush drained another one from downtown and boosted L. Rytas in front by 11-4. The margin kept rising as Andrius Slezas rose off the the bench with a triple and Jomantas added a three-point play. Snaidero looked totally confused on the offensive end as they ended the quarter on the wrong side of a 16-7 scoreboard. Batista opened the second quarter with back-to-back layups that made it 20-7 as Snaidero kept turning the ball over. Joel Zacchetti stepped up with a mid-range jumper but Mindaugas Lukauskis matched him as he converted an enormous put-back dunk. Snaidero had tried 13 three-pointers by then, and 4 of them were airballs. Allen finished a fastbreak only to see it answered by Janis Blums' triple for a 26-11 score. Michele Antonutti and Williams initiated a 0-5 run which forced a L. Rytas timeout with the score fixed at 26-16. Snaidero continued to pick up its game now as Kristaps Valters hit a triple and reduced the margin even more, but Matt Nielsen stepped up with 4 points as L. Rytas seemd to regain control at 30-19. That was not completely true, however, because Snaidero ended the first half with a cozy 0-5 run to pull within 30-24 at the break.
Blums was the first to score after the break, but Christian Di Giuliomaria sparked what would be a big Snaidero comeback. When Allen drained a triple, all was to start over again. Snaidero calmed their nerves as Williams drove to score, while Silvio Gigena made a shot from outside and converted a three-point play with the added free throw. That suddenly, it was 32-36 for Snaidero. Rush stepped up for the hosts with a triple as the crowd became the x-factor. Allen calmly hit free throws but Williams missed his. Triples by Slezas and Rush regained the lead for L. Rytas, but Allen looked unstoppable as he answered with 4 consecutive points to take it back for Snaidero, 41-42. However, Nielsen and Rush combined for 3 points to finish the quarter with L. Rytas in front again, 44-42 after 30 minutes. Mike Penberthy dropped a three-pointer to regain the lead early in the decisive final quarter for Snaidero, but Batista stepped up with a huge dunk and a layup to give it back to L. Rytas, 48-45. Blums exploded with a three-pointer, but Di Giuliomaria did the same to make it 51-48. The teams exchanged baskets again as Nielsen hit a midrange jumper and Allen responded with an important triple with a shotclock winding down at 53-51. Batista made free throws to boost the lead again while Nielsen worked hard on defense. He denied a try by Williams and forced his foul. Rush hit a difficult fade-away jumper for a 57-51 lead , but Allen didn't miss from the line. The packed house of 10,000 L. Rytas fans exploded with joy a minute later as Jomantas and Rush finished their plays and boosted the advantage to 61-53 with 2 minutes on the clock. The hosts looked to have seized the victory when Williams was punished with a flagrant foul, but Penberthy drained a triple and Allen added a free throw for a 62-57 score. Rush drove again, but Penberthy responded with another triple at 64-60. When Blums made only 1 of 2 free throws, all was in hands of Allen, who had a chance for the series or a tie, but went for the decisive triple in the last second - and missed.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007