Zadar shook off a game-long challenge from visiting Maroussi Costa Coffee to prevail 87-79 in the Group A opener for both teams before 4,000 fans at Kresimir Cosic Sports Center in Croatia on Tuesday. Big bench scoring in the decisive third quarter helped Zadar zoom ahead by double digits, but the hosts needed all of that cushion avoid a Maroussi charge at the finish. Marlon Garnett sparked the hosts early and hit big free throws late to lead all scorers with 23 points. The bench duo of Hrvoje Peric and Deyan Ivanov added 18 and 17 points, respectively, to follow him, while Todor Gecevski downed 16 and pulled 6 rebounds. Maroussi got 10 points from big man Loukas Mavrokefalides and 16 more from Jarod Stevenson, but suffered from 18 turnovers, including some key ones down the stretch.
Zadar took control with an early shooting show led by Garnett. His back-to-back-to-back triples following one by Rok Stipcevic vaulted Zadar to a 14-7 lead after just 4 minutes. Shorter shots by Gecevski and Jere Macura pushed that to 18-10 before Billy Keys answered with his own back-to-back pair from the arc for Maroussi at 18-16. Andreas Glyniadakis completed the comeback for the visitors with a three-point basket-plus-free throw to make it 19-21 Maroussi after one quarter. Zadar kept tying early in the second quarter but Mavrokefalides kept Maroussi a step ahead until Peric's three-point play got the hosts a 30-29 lead. Back and forth they went on teh scoreboard, with a last tie forged by Peric broken when Konstantinos Charalampidis scored the last basket for Maroussi to make it 34-36 at halftime.
Mavrokefalides seemed to push Maroussi toward control with a three-point play to open the second half at 34-39, but Zadar quickly stormed back behind a big triple from Ivanov. Peric soon tied, his fourth game-tying basket in 10 minutes, and put Zadar back in front on a free throw, 40-39. Neither team would surrender as Stevenson drilled a triple and keys a layup to put Maroussi back up, 43-46, before Peric hit another go-ahead shot at 47-46. Gecevski and Peric finally let Zadar make a break with 8 poins between them in a 10-0 run that finished with a layup by Ivanov. Even with a buzzer-beating triple by Mavrokefalides, Zadar was up 64-56 after 30 minutes. The hosts pushed the advantage to 71-58 early in the final quarter on Ivanov's triple, but Maroussi mounted a 3-10 run including 5 points by Shawn Huff to get within 74-68. Mavrokefalides kept the pressure on with a pair of baskets to which Fanis Kampouras added his own to make it 78-74. Zadar went to Peric for free throws that Huff answered from downtown at 80-77. That seemed to set up a big finish, but in the final two minutes, Maroussi suffered 3 turnovers and Garnett made his free throws to let Zadar hold onto victory.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008