Metis Varese is the new, exclusive leader of Group D after topping Ricoh Astronauts 69-79 in Amsterdam on Tuesday despite having trailed by 13 after the first quarter. Thanks to experience, Varese (4-1) came back and managed to preserve the victory in the last minutes. The visitors were also fortunate that Astronauts (2-3) were without their injured leader and best scorer, Chris McGuthrie, the game winner in both the team's previous victories. The best scorer for Varese was power forward Paolo Conti with 22 points, followed by center Shawnelle Scott with 14 points and 8 rebounds. Veteran forward Francesco Vescovi scored 11, including 2 late three-pointers that put the game on ice. Astronauts had 21 points from Zvonimir Ridl and 20 from Joe Spinks, but shot poor percentages, 23% on threes and 47% on two-pointers while Metis had an excellent 59% on twos and 47% on threes.
The first period seems to be the start of a one-way game, with Astronauts on fire, dominating under the boards and running fastbreaks led by Ridl, while Varese was slow to react. The first peiod ended with Astronauts holding a big advantage, 27-13, Whatever Varese coach Gregor Beugnot said during the slim break between the first and second period, it worked. His team was back on the floor with a different approach and great defensive intensity. The game completely changed and they limited Astronauts to just 9 points in 10 minutes! The defense helped spark the offense to run in the open court, which in turn opened up space for the inside players. With everyone involved, Varese turned the scoreboard around for three-point advantage at the buzzer, 36-39. Ridl was leading the home team with 11 points while Scott had 14 and Conti 10 for Varese.
The third period was close with slim advantages for both teams and Varese taking a one-point lead at the buzzer, 59-60, on a shot by Conti. The last quarter was decisive, with Astronauts suffering the absence of McGuthrie, who scored 30 points in the second half alone at Charleroi the previous week. Now, the hosts, collapsed against the defensive wall of Metis, scoring just 10 points in 10 minutes and suffering consecutive threes by Vescovi that saw Varese go from 63-64 to 63-70. Although Astronauts tried to hit threes to come back, the gap opened by Vescovi's shots was enough to win the game for the visitors and put them in first place at the break.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002