Eldo Napoli gave its fans a thrilling way to remember the club's first-ever Euroleague victory by downing Aris TT Bank 71-69 in Group C on Wednesday. Valerio Spinelli buried a pair of free throws with 4.9 seconds left to seal Napoli's glory after 40 minutes of a back-and-forth scoreboard. Both teams are now 1-2 in the group standings. Alessandro Cittadini led the winners with 12 points while making 5 of 5 two-pointers. Jeff Trepagnier added 11 points, Spinelli 10, while Mason Rocca ruled the boards with 14 rebounds. Alex Scales paced Aris with 17 points and Mike Wilkinson posted a double-double of 12 and 11 rebounds. Napoli led by as many as 13 points before a 5-23 Aris blast bridged the halves and set the stage for a back and forth struggle that only ended when Spinelli was cool as ice with the game on the line.
Aris jumped out to a 0-4 lead as Castle and Sigalas downed their first jump shots each. Wilkinson and Dmitris Tsaldaris with a three-pointer boosted the lead to 4-9 before Cittadini started getting hot. The Napoli forward hit a pair of his own jump shots and then returned after some back-and-forth scoring to land a shot that tied it up, 12-12. However, as Cittadini got whistled for a third foul, Wilkinson kept the guests close enough to allow Alex Scales, on a basket-plus-free throw to send Aris ahead again, 14-17. A steal by Brown forged another tie, 17-17, before free throws by Morandais and a fastbreak basket by Rocca comopleted a 7-0 Napoli run to a 21-17 lead. Brown returned with a bank shot and Rocca closed the quarter with a layup to give the hosts a 25-21 advantage after 10 minutes.
Jeff Trapagnier extended Napoli's lead to begin the second quarter, and the hosts relied on Rocca and Matteo Malaventura to anchor the defense. Both teams suffered from poor shooting at long distance now, but Aris got in trouble when a tecnhical gave Sigalas his fourth foul. Malaventura's free throws meant a 30-21 advantage for Napoli. Aris was not able to reply as Trapagnier's triple gave the hosts their first double-digit advantage, 34-21. Aris head coach Andrea Mazzon called a timeout and soon the visitors were mounting a rally. Rocca had a shot blocked by Massey that sent Tsaldaris for another a triple that got Aris within 34-30. Rocca found a low-post basket to stop Napoli's slide, but Abul-Rauf's bomb ended the second quarter with a 36-33 scoreboard.
Almost a minute passed before Simonas Serapinas opened the second-half scoring with free throws for Aris. Morandais soon answered with a layup and Napoli switched to a zone defense as a 39-39 tie stood for 3 minutes. Aris woke up first, as a penetration by Scales made it 39-43. After a Napoli timeout, Spinelli came in and scored a layup, and after Wilkinson was whistled for an offensive foul, Trepagnier drilled the triple that gave Napoli a lead back at 44-43. Savvas Iliadis took it back for Aris with his basket, but Spinelli used his quickness to drive and tie again, 49-49, to set up an exciting last quarter.
The first points of the last quarter were an omen of sorts, as Spinelli's free throws put Napoli up 51-49. Eldo's defense was now more intense and Abdul-Rauf's offensive foul gave Simone Flamini a chance to make it 54-49 from downtown. Aris called timeout, after which Scales made free throws by drawing Rocca's fourth foul. Rocca soon aswered, however, with a layup and free throw that boosted the lead to 57-51 score. Although Rocca would hit again from the line and Malaventura from the arc, Wilkinson kept Aris close enough that when Scales landed a triple and a two-pointer, it was all tied up again, 60-60. Rocca left after his fifth foul, but Flamini rebounded to start a fastbreack that Malaventura ended with a three-pointer for a 64-60 Napoli lead. But Scales answered with a bomb, also, promising a thriller to the end as the lead went back and forth. Castle gave it to Aris and Flamini took it back with 4 free throws that made it 69-65 with just a minute to go. Iliadis missed 2 key free throws then, but got the rebound and scored just before a fastbreak by Abdul-Rauf gave Aris a seemingly miraculous 69-69 tie. But with just 4 seconds to go, Spinelli was sent to the foul line where he didn't miss the chance to give Napoli its first victory ever in the Euroleague, 71-69.
Wednesday, November 8, 2006