Lietuvos Rytas lifts ULEB Cup trophy!
Lietuvos Rytas won its first European title and wrote a new page in basketball history by beating Alfa Makedonikos 78-74 in the ULEB Cup Final in front of a sellout crowd of 6,500 at the Spiroudome in Charleroi, Belgium on Tuesday. L. Rytas also earned the right to take part in the 2005-06 Euroleague, as well as becoming the third ULEB Cup titlest after Pamesa Valencia and Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem. More than 1,000 fans from Lithuania celebrated the victory that made L. Rytas just the second team ever to lift a continental trophy. Tyrone Nesby and Simas Jasaitis led the winners with 16 points apiece while Robertas Javtokas had 14 for Rytas and became the MVP of the game by adding 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Tomas Delininkaitis and Gintaras Einikis also played a key role, each with 9 points. Pete Mickeal led Makedonikos with 24 points and 9 rebounds. Slaven Rimac added 14 and Manolis Papamakarios 12 for their team. L. Rytas came with a scoring reputation, but ruled on defense, holding Makedonikos to 26 points in the game's first 24 minutes. The Makedonikos shooters hit only 1 of their first 13 three-pointers. L. Rytas led by as many as 27 points, 57-30, late in the third quarter. But when Makedonikos started making shots midway through the fourth quarter, things got really exciting. Rimac hit the last to make it 77-74 with 12 seconds left, but L. Rytas held on with a final free throw by Javtokas for the victory.
It took Rytas 11 seconds to open the score with free throws by Javtokas, who added a block in the other end, allowing Nesby to nail a six-meter shot with gave his team a 4-0 lead. Makedonikos did not score untl Lukovski made a free throw, but a red hot Javtokas fired in an uncontested four-meter jumper to extend Rytas' lead to 6-1. Makedonikos struggled to score against Rytas' zone defense and even Mickael missed consecutive shots around the basket, while Nesby made a running jumper which forced coach Argyris Pedoulakis to call timeout with Rytas up 8-1. Mickael came off it back-to-back driving baskets, while Rytas entered the foul bonus just after 3 minutes. The scoring pace got slower, as free throws by Simas Jasaitis and Mujezinovic gave Lietuvos a 10-5 lead midway through the first. Stelmahers made a stop-and-pop three from the top of the key and Jasaitis drove for a short jumper which boosted Rytas' margin to double digits, 15-5. Papamakarios tried to change things with Makedonikos' first three-pointer, but Lietuvos powered the offensive board and had a better approach to the game using strong zone defense to dominate the game. Stelmahers fed Javtokas for a basket-plus-foul, as Rytas switched to man-to-man defense. Mickael scored in the paint, but Jasaitis immediately answered from downtown to give the Lithuanians their bigger margin so far, 21-10. Grygorij Khyzhnjak made free throws and Lukovski added a fast break layup, but Javtokas provided a highlight with an alleyoop dunk which gave Rytas a 23-14 lead after 10 minutes. Makedonikos was outrebounded by 13-5 in the opening quarter.
L. Rytas carried on using alternative defenses early in the second. Khyzhnjak scored near the basket and had already started to intimidate everyone around the Makedonikos basket, but Mujezinovic answered with a four-meter jumper, as the game turned into a physical battle. Tomas Delininkaitis stepped up with a catch-and-shoot jumper, but Khyzhnjak carried on finding ways to score in the paint, as he made free throws for a 27-18 Makedonikos deficit. He didn't find much help around for a while, while Gintaras Einikis came off a pick-and-roll to drill an uncontested three while Delininkaitis fed Jasaitis for a fast break layup, giving Rytas a 14-point lead, 32-18. Makedonikos tried to change things with a timeout, but Einikis stepped up with a left-handed layup while Andrius Slezas added a tip-in for a new biggest margin, 36-18. Makedonikos could not find the way to the basket, with poor shot selection and many turnovers, as Rytas kept full control of the game. Einikis made his trademark hook shot which capped a game-breaking 11-0 run, as Makedonikos went scoreless for almost 4 minutes until Nenad stepped up with a running layup. After a couple of unproductive offense, Slezas rescued Rytas with a triple from the top of the key, boosting his team's margin to 41-20. Khyzhnjak returned to the floor and found a put-back basket which Mickael followed with a driving basket to bring Makedonikos within 41-24. Javtokas found another mid-range jumper and Mujezinovic added a free throw to make Rytas reach the locker room with a 20-point margin, 44-24. Rytas' defense limited Makedonikos to 9-for-32 shooting in the opening half.
Makedonikos came back to the court with a different attitude, as Mickeal went coast-to-coast for a power layup, but its aggressiveness in defense didn't pay off as expected. Meanwhile, Javtokas had a huge block on Mickeal while Stelmahers scored free throws off a technical called on Papamakarios, who returned to the bench with 4 fouls. Delininkaitis took over with a big three-pointer, as Rytas shined again in defense with alternative defenses. Coach Pedoulakis tried to find answers by calling a timeout and bringing Hutson and Rimac back on court. Hutson was fouled twice made 3 of 4 free throws, his first points in the game, but his team trailed 51-29 midway through the third. Both teams had already entered the foul bonus and Rytas got the most out of it, as Nesby made 4 of 4 from the line to make it a 25-point game, 55-30. He added an outstanding left-handed dunk for a new biggest margin for his team, 57-30, as Makedonikos carried on having troubles in both ends. Rimac made free throws and Mickeal stepped up with a basket-plus-foul, but Rytas did not allow any kind of comeback. Jasaitis nailed a six-meter jumper and added a layup for a 61-35 lead. Rimac made a driving basket to bring Makedonikos within 62-41 after 30 minutes.
All Lietuvos Rytas fans in the aisles had already started to celebrate their team's win, while Einikis made another hook shot to make Rytas keep a 64-43 lead. Makedonikos carried on committing turnovers, and the outcome of the game was clear long before the final buzzer. Even with that, Makedonikos carried on trying, as Mickael found a tip-in and Papamakarios nailed a three-pointer. Meanwhile, Mickael slashed for a basket which brought his team within 66-50. Rytas called timeout with less than 7 minutes to go, but Makedonikos came back even stronger. Mickeal ran the length of the court to make a fast break layup and Papamakarios fired in another three to make it a 11-point game, 66-55, after a 0-10 run. Jasaitis came to the rescue with a mid-range jumper and Javtokas added another shot from the left corner, but Papamakarios was on fire. He nailed another one from downtown and Mickeal added a stop-and-pop jumper to bring their team even closer, 70-60, with 3 minutes remaining. Stelmahers was already fouled out and Makedonikos kept rallying. Mickeal took over with a power put-back layup and Rimac added a tough basket for a 72-64 Makedonikos deficit. Rytas struggled to score even from the free throw line, but its defense did the rest, as Makedonikos ran out of time. Rimac nailed a three already in the final minute for a 73-67 deficit. Delininkaitis made a free throw with 48.1 seconds to go and Hutson scored in the paint before a carousel of free throws started. Konstantinos Charalampidis and Jasaitis made 2 apiece for a 77-71 Rytas lead with 21.7 seconds to go. Rimac got Makedonikos within 77-74 with a another three, but Javtokas sealed the win with a free throw with 6.4 seconds to go, allowing his team to celebrate the ULEB Cup title!
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Javier Gancedo, ULEBCup.com