Flexing its muscles in Group A, Lottomotica fought off a stubborn Cibona for its second win in a row, 80-72, before some happy fans in Rome on Thursday. The win, which came without injured team leader Carlton Myers, raised Lottomatica's record to 2-4. Cibona slipped to 2-3, with the replay of its game from the previous week still pending. Lottomotica was led by strong play on the perimeter, beginning with Doremus Bennerman, who 4 triples among his game-high 18 points. Alessandro Tonolli added 3 triples and 16 points while newly-arrived Cory Alexander scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half. Last but not least, Rashard Griffith registered a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Cibona was led by Slaven Rimac with 15 points, while Scoonie Penn had 12 and Jurica Golemac 10. Lottomotica led through most of the game, but Cibona refused to give up. In the end, a clutch three-pointer from Alexander buried Cibona's hopes.
Cibona got off to a quick 3-7 lead but it was Lottomotica who dictated the pace of the game early on, reacting with an 8-0 run keyed by triples from Tonolli and Bennerman and a basket down low from Griffith. In the game's fourth minute Lottomotica held an 11-7 lead. Cibona's rapid ball movement was creating open shots against Lottomotica's man-to-man and Rimac's first basket of the game tied the score at 11-11. Rimac struck again minutes later, pulling the visitors to within 16-15 but Lottomotica grabbed control back with a triple from Tonolli and a three-point play from Griffith for a 22-15 edge after 8 minutes. A pair of driving hoops by Rimac, who finished the quarter with 9 points, kept Lottomotica from running away as the scoreboard showed the hosts ahead 25-21 after 10 minutes.
Neither team scored for 2 minutes at the start of the second quarter. Once it got rolling, Lottomotica seemed to be in command at 31-23 after Cal Bowdler's offensive rebound and put-back. Cibona showed grit however, holding Lottomatica without a field goal for 2 minutes reeling off 8 unanswered points for a 31-31 tie after 16 minutes. The teams traded baskets until Griffith's seventh point gave Lottomotica a three point edge. Cibona forced Alexander into a turnover on the final possession, but was unable to capitalize, a fitting end to the final 4 minutes of the quarter in which the guests came up with just 3 points and trailed 37-34 headed into the lockers.
After the break, Alex Righetti got things started for Lottomotica with a three-pointer, matched by Tonolli on the next possession as the hosts shot ahead 42-36. Though it had a height advantage with Griffith against Andrija Zizic, a natural power forward, Lottomotica buried outside jumpers until Tonolli's dunk off, assisted by Griffith, feed gave the Romans a 46-41 advantage. Behind an aggressive Scoonie Penn, Cibona wouldn't let the game get away, however. After scoring just 2 points in the first half, Penn poured in 5 consecutively to pull Cibona within 2 points. Long-distance shooting spurred both teams late in the third quarter, as Alexander and Bennerman responded to Penn by nailing triples of their own. Rimac kept the guests close with his own bomb for 55-51, but Lottomotica found some cohesiveness by going to Griffith in the post, and its ball movement resulted in a 7-2 run over the final 2 minutes of the quarter. At the end of 30 minutes, the hosts were up 62-53.
Cibona scored the first 4 points of the fourth quarter, pulling to within 62-57 on a basket by Golemac. Lottomotica reacted quickly, however, with a triple from Bennerman and then a layup plus foul by Tusek for a 67-57 lead with 7 minutes left. Of course, Cibona hit back with three consecutive baskets topped by 2 free throws from Zizic, making the score 67-65 with just over 3 minutes remaining. Bennerman and Rimac then exchanged three-pointers but Alexander gave the Romans a four-point cusion with 1:50 to play when he slashed through the lane for a layup. Two possessions later, Alexander also hit the biggest basket of the game, a deep triple curling off a screen to give Lottomotica a 75-70 lead with just 40 ticks left on the clock. Cibona tried to respond with a quick three-pointer, but it rimmed out and Rome was in good shape. Cibona was forced to foul, and Lottomotica closed out the game by knocking down 5 of 6 free throws.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Nate Jaffee, Rome