With little to inspire them but pride and momentum heading into the Top 16, Cibona VIP and visiting Skipper Bologna nonetheless fought into overtime in Zagreb on Wednesday in their final Group A game. When they were done, Cibona had proved its home court to be one of the Euroleague's toughest by pulling out an 89-83 decision. Cibona finishes 7-7 and in fifth place anyway, but turning back one of Europe's hottest teams on the floor at Drazen Petrovic Arena should prove useful as the Croatians prepare for the Top 16. Skipper, whose big men were in foul trouble early and who did not have Gianmarco Pozzecco available, dropped to 8-6 and remains in fourth place, failing to take advantage of a loss by Efes at home in Istanbul to Pau-Orthez. Skipper surely tried. Gianluca Basile forced OT with a three-pointer late in regulation time, but Cibona took over with a 7-0 run early in the extra 5 minutes and finished its business at the foulline. Cibona won despite 3-for-28 three-point shooting (10.7%) behind a pair of double-doubles. Matej Mamic put up 21 points and 10 rebounds while Haris Mujezinovic was right beside him with 16 points and 14 boards. Niksa Prkacin wasn't far behind, with 14 points and 6 rebounds. Davor Kus added 10 for the winners. Basile was Skipper's top gun with 27 points. Giacomo Galanda added 17, Carlos Delfino 12 and Vlado Scepanovic 10. Skipper got out of the gate haltingly until a Basile three-pointer gave the visitors a first lead, 4-5, after 2 minutes. It was like a lid came off for Skipper. Galanda was unstoppable inside and Delfino pumped in two of his own triples as Skipper raced off on a 4-12 run to lead 8-17. Mujezinovic tried to calm Cibona with a three-point play. Then Mamic nailed a pair of free throws and Marijan Mance dunked on the break. Cibona was back in the game, and then Zoran Planinic buried the first triple for the Croatians to cut the Skipper lead to 18-19. In the final minute, Mamic did the honors of retaking the lead for Cibona on a three-point play that drew Galanda's second foul. Mujezinovic capped what was a 17-3 run now with a layup and, after drawing Galanda's third foul, a pair of free throws. With Mate Skelin also out with a pair of fouls, Cibona had handcuffed Skipper's big men and staked a 25-20 lead after 10 minutes.
Cibona's big men were certainly feeling strong, so Prkacin joined the fun with a dunk plus free throw early in the second quarter to make it 28-22. The lead hit a high of 30-22 on a layup by Mamic before Vlado Scepanovic woke up Skipper with a triple and Skelin spoke up inside for a basket that lowered the lead to 32-27. That was cut further, to 36-33, on another Delfino triple, and later at 39-36 on another by Scepanovic. Cibona's big forwards were keeping their team a step ahead, but only until Delfino raised up for his fourth big shot from downtown, good for a 39-39 tie after 17 minutes. The momentum seemed to be shifting now to the visitors as Basile autographed a new lead, 39-41, with his layup. Davor Kus hit 4 consecutive free throws to tie at 45-45 before the fans got what they wanted on the last scoring play of the half. Barisa Krasic blocked Basile's shot at one end and Slaven Rimac finished the resulting fastbreak with a dunk at the other to give Cibona a 47-45 lead to an already entertaining game.
Basile got Skipper a lead back at 49-50 lead early in the second half. Cibona now made its response from downtown, as Rimac and Krasic buried triples. The locals were back in charge now at 59-54 and the Zagreb fans were getting a real show. But first the defenses decided to activae themselves for the first time all night. And then Galanda rejoined the battle with 6 points to keep Skipper close and then a Scepanovic dunk gave the visitors back another lead, 61-62. Lubos Barton put the finishing touches on the Skipper turnaround with a pair of free throws that put the visitors ahead 61-64 after 30 minutes.
Cibona's defense firmed up for the last quarter. One of the protagonists from early in the game, Mamic, made consecutive baskets to put the hosts back in charge, 67-64. By the time Prkacin threw down a dunk halfway through the quarter, the lead was at 71-65, with Skipper's lone point in the quarter a Scepanovic free throw. Mamic again was the triggerman as the lead hit a high of 9 points at 75-66 with under 4 minutes to play. Galanda and Stefano Mancinelli cut it down to 75-70, then Mancinelli scored again and Barton added a free throw for 76-73. That set up the game-tying three-pointer off the hands of Basile, sending the game to overtime.
Once in OT, Cibona didn't take any new chances. Kus's jumper plus a foul shot got the locals the lead again. Prkacin added his next shot and Mujezinovic canned a pair of free throws for a 7-0 run to an 83-76 lead. Half the overtime was spent when Basile drove for Skipper's first bucket, but Mancinelli followed that with his own and the defecit was trimmed to 83-80. The game went to the free throw line now, where Muezinovic and Prkacin added a point each before Mamic put down 2 foul shots in the final minute for an 87-80 lead. Basile had another triple in him, but ran out of time as both teams turned their thoughts to future challenges in the Top 16.
Wednesday, February 12, 2003