A scoring duel of sorts between one of Europe's most established stars and one of its hottest young prospects ended in favor of experience, but only by a nose, as Skipper Bologna won at Krka Novo Mesto 94-100 on Wednesday. Gregor Fucka, the tried and true veteran of Skipper, posted 27 points for the winners and was matched in his scoring proficiency by young sensation Jaka Lakovic of Novo Mesto. For Skipper it was a second win in a row in Group C, good for a 2-1 record despite the continuing absence of its top two centers. Novo Mesto, attempting its second big upset, falls to 1-2. Claudio Pilutti added 19 points to the cause for the winners and Gianluca Basile 17, including all 7 in the final minute, when Skipper went ahead for good. For Novo Mesto Mate Skelin balanced the scoring with 19 points inside and Dragisa Drobnjak added 14.
Samo Grum opened the match with two-point shot that sparked Novo Mesto to a fast start and a seven-point lead, 11-4. Seeing Jaka Lakovic getting into the flow for the hosts, head coach Matteo Boniciolli called Skipper's first timeout right then and changed Vasco Evtimov for Zoran Savic and Marko Milic for Andrea Meneghin. After the timeout, Skipper refocused, got a couple defensive stops and lowered the deficit quicklyto 11-8, focing Ales Pipan to call Novo Mesto's first timeout. Skipper continued improving and finally tied Novo Mesto in the seventh minute after three free throws, 11-11. Fucka then put Skipper two points ahead, but Lakovic responded with a three-pointer to make it 14-13. They went back and forth like that until Claudio Pilutti finished the first quarter with a three-pointer and gave the visitors their biggest lead, 20-24.
As the second quarter opened, Savic was called for his third foul and Novo Mesto kept missing from outside. John Celestand scored three points and Fucka two to maintain Skipper's lead at 32-36. Marko Samanic and Dragisa Drobnjak responded with five points between them to put Novo Mesto back in front, 37-36, but Fucka had his own answer. For every Skipper basket, there was Lakovic, too, inventing new ways to score. After a rash of third fouls, to Grum of Novo Mesto and Pilutti of Skipper, Skipper was still up 4, at 43-47, with 40 seconds until halftime. Then, after the home team added a free throw, who should rear his head but Lakovic, the new young scoring champ of Europe. With two seconds left, he let go a three-pointer, and as most of his shots so far this season, it fell right through. It tied the game 47-47 and raised his point total to 22 points at halftime, more than the average of all but a handful of Euroleague players. The game was wide open.
After halftime, Krka continued strong to a quick 54-52 advantage 54-52, forcing Boniciolli into another early timeout. Krka's defense tightened and Skelin and Bennet Davison pushed the lead to 58-52. As Savic committed his fourth foul and Grum scored both free shots (60-52) the home team was smelling another huge win. Lakovic and Davison scored again as the lead soared into double digits, 64-53, before Galando stopped the bleeding for Skipper with 3 points (64-56). After a Novo Mesto timeout, now it was Pilutti connecting with a three to cut the lead to 66-61. Now Fucka landed his own missile to make it 67-64. Skipper kept closing in until another Pilutti three-pointer tied it 72-72. The visitors went on to lead 72-76 at the end after what amounted to an 8-20 run.
Skipper continued hot in the final quarter with a trio of three-pointers for a 79-85 lead. The home team struck back aand tied it at 85-85 with four minutes left on a basket by Aleksandar Capin, the replacement for Lakovic. The young sensation was back on-court, however, to give Novo Mesto the lead, 87-85, with a pair of freethrows. That lead held at 93-91 with 2 minutes left as Skelin added a bucket. A minute later, however, Basile raised up for a three that would put Skipper ahead for good at 93-96. Basile then sealed it with four free throws down the stretch.
Wednesday, October 24, 2001