Lietuvos Rytas won a duel to stay in first place in Group A the hard way, escaping with a 72-70 win against visiting Gran Canaria at home in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday. It was the team's first victory under new head coach Zmago Sagadin and lifted L. Rytas's record to 3-1. G. Canaria lost its second straight to fall to 2-2. The hosts blasted off 10-0 to start the game but had to battle the rest of the way to survive. Tomas Delininkaitis led the winners with 17 points, including the only 2 three-pointers L. Rytas made in 18 attempts. Three of his teammates - Andre Emmett, Eurelijus Zukauskas and Titus Ivory - scored 9 each. Zukauskas showed he was back fully from injury by adding 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 assists. G. Canaria rallied admirably behind 12 points by Sitapha Savane, 11 by Kornel David and 10 by Jackson Vroman.
L. Rytas ruled the start as Matthew Nielsen, Delininkaitis and Zukauskas combined for an early 10-0 blast that lasted almost 3 minutes. Jackson Vroman finally opened the scoring for Gran Canaria with a turnaround jumper and free throw then Jimmie Hunter drained a triple to get the guests within 10-6 midway through the quarter. Emmett increased the L. Rytas lead again on a driving layup, but life soon seemed more and more complicated for the hosts. Savane cut the difference to 12-11, but Emmett responded with an extra pair of penetrations to which J.P. Batista and Andrius Slezas added baskets for a 8-0 L. Rytas run. A massive dunk by Kornel David was also answered by a Roberts Stelmahers jumper, leaving the hosts ahead 24-15 after 10 minutes. Savane converted a three-point play to open the second quarter and David made a semi-hook to cut the lead again to 4 points, 24-20. Emmett squeezed in a free throw before G. Canaria subs Sergio Perez and Roberto Guerra took off on fastbreaks to tie the score at 25-25. L. Rytas went back on top again as Titus Ivory stepped up with a basket-plus-free throw. After a scoreless 2 minutes for both teams, Ivory did the very same thing again, but Perez and David drew G. Canaria closer again, at 31-30. Delininkaitis finally broke the ice and made the night's first triple for L. Rytas but Joel Freeland bounced back with a turnaround jumper to make it 37-34. A putback by Slezas saw the teams head to the locker room with the score fixed at 40-34 for L. Rytas.
Zukauskas opened the scoring after the break with a huge dunk off a nice dish by Delininkaitis, who drove for a basket himself before David buried a jumper from the corner and Vroman slammed the ball off an inbound pass. Vroman and Zukauskas continued exchanging baskets until the score was 46-41. L. Rytas drew one foul after another but couldn't make free throws and Jim Moran punished the hosts with a mid-range jumper. Delininkaitis showed his agressiveness by hitting twice from the line before Batista added a put-back that forced a visitors' timeout at 52-43. G. Canaria broke its silence then as Marcus Norris buried a triple and Moran a jumper to reduce the margin to 53-49. Hunter then drained one from behind the arc to complete a 3-9 run as G. Canaria pulled within 55-52 after three quarters. Moran continued the rally from downtown to tie as the fourth quarter started, but Zukauskas kept L. Rytas in the driver's seat with a difficult hook to make it 57-55. Savane put the ball back nicely, but was injured and carried off the court. Slezas stepped up with a free throw before Zukauskas received a standing ovation for a perfect Sabonis-like dish on Ivory's layup to make it 60-57. Vroman and Mindaugas Lukauskis exchanged baskets before Delininkaitis stole and scored for a 64-59 lead midway through the final quarter. Another timeout helped G. Canaria as Hunter and Ivory exchanged jumpers before Savane returned and put back an offensive rebound. Things heated up as Delininkaitis only saw his triple answered by on from Guerra that made it 69-66. After a L. Rytas timeout, Lukauskis added a basket in penetration for the hosts, but Guerra answered. Although he missed an additional free throw, it even helped G. Canaria as David grabbed an offensive rebound and Norris converted a free throw to make it 71-69. A free throw by David fixed the score at 71-70 with a crucial minute to go but a great L. Rytas effort on defense paid off as the hosts stole the ball with 19 seconds left. Gran Canaria had to foul, and Roberts Stelmahers made 1 of 2 free throws. G. Canaria had a chance to reach overtime, but missed.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006