Ponitka lifts Zenit to OT win in Kaunas
Mateusz Ponitka scored 9 of his team-high 19 points in overtime to lift Zenit St. Petersburg to a tough 70-82 road win over Zalgiris Kaunas on Wednesday night. The hosts seemed to have all the momentum after Lukas Lekavicius made 3 free throws with 2.4 seconds left in regulation to save Zalgiris from what appeared to be certain defeat but in the extra session, a fresh-legged Ponitka rose to the occasion as the visitors romped to victory. The result left both teams with 2-3 records. Ponitka also collected 7 rebounds for the winners. Gustavo Ayon tallied 11 points, 5 assists and 4 steals, Colton Iverson posted 10 points and 4 blocks and Austin Hollins also scored 10 for Zenit. Edgaras Ulanovas and Zach LeDay scored 12 apiece to lead Zalgiris and Marius Grigonis and Nigel Hayes had 10 each.
Ulanovas started out strong for the hosts before a pair of steals and scores by Ayon on either side of a Zalgiris timeout lifted Zenit to a 7-9 edge. Hayes scored 4 points in a 6-0 run to finish the first quarter that gave the hosts an 18-14 lead after 10 minutes. Paulius Jankunas was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Tim Abromaitis and Anton Ponkrashov capitalized with a jumper to boost Zenit to an 18-19 edge. A four-point play by Alex Renfroe stretched the Zenit advantage to 22-27. Zalgiris came back to tie it at 28-28 on a free throw by LeDay and that is how the half ended. The hosts jumped in front to start the second half, however, Zenit came right back to even things at 35-35. Back and forth they went until Iverson scored twice in the final minute of the third quarter to put Zenit ahead 43-44. Jock Landale knocked down a triple that tied it again early in the fourth quarter. Ponitka answered from downtown to ignite a 0-8 Zenit run, which prompted a Zalgiris timeout at 46-54 with 4 and a half minutes remaining. LeDay answered the call for Zalgiris with an offensive rebound and three-point play and Grigonis drained a triple to narrow the gap to 4. Arturas Milaknis drained a second-chance three with 56 seconds on the clock that made it a 1-point game. However, Ponitka converted a three-point play at the other end. Zalgiris received a boost of hope when Renfore split free throws, but Milaknis’s turnover seemed to seal the outcome. However, Thomas Walkup tied up Andrew Albicy and then won the resulting jump ball and Lekavicius was fouled trying to shoot from three-quarters court. He made the resulting 3 free throws with 2.4 seconds left to tie it at 62-62 and force overtime. Ponitka started the extra session with a triple and soon added a basket-plus-foul. Zalgiris had no answer for Ponitka, whose tip-in made it 64-71. Zalgiris seemed to have run out of gas and Hollins's steal and slam capped an impressive road win for Zenit.
It was only decisive in forcing overtime, but it deserves to be recognized nonetheless. Thomas Walkup came up big in tieing up Zenit Andrew Albicy in the dying seconds to force a jump-ball, which he won. Lukas Lekavicius grabbed the tip and launched a heave into Alex Renfroe. The resulting foul call allowed Lekavicius - who kept his cool in a game-on-the-line situation, to tie and force overtime.
Zenit controlled the paint at both ends. Led by Colton Iverson's 4, Zenit rejected 8 shots and held the home side to 14-of-37 shooting (37.8%) on two-pointers. Both teams collected a whopping 18 offensive rebounds, but neither cashed in at a high rate with Zalgiris scoring 14 second-chance points and Zenit 9.
Arturas Milaknis climbed another step on his road to becoming one of the great three-point marksmen in EuroLeague history with his 238th triple, which took him past former Zalgiris scorer Marcus Brown for sole possession of 13th place on the all-time list. Trajan Langdon is 12th with 339 triples for his career. Gustavo Ayon’s 4 steals gave him third place among centers in EuroLeague history with 172. Kaya Peker is second with 174. Ayon is 41st among all players.
The two teams have less than 48 hours before they hit the hardwood again on Friday. Zenit returns home to take on reigning champion CSKA Moscow, while Zalgiris heads to Istanbul for a showdown with Fenerbahce Beko.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019