Bennet Cantu held off Caja Laboral 71-68
In a dramatic game of improbable swings, Bennet Cantu squeaked past Caja Laboral 71-68 at the Pala Desio in Cantu, Italy, on Thursday night. The victory created a three-way tie at 4-3 atop Group A between Cantu, Caja Laboral and Fenerbahce Ulker, while three other teams are right behind at 3-4 – the tightest race after seven games in the history of the Turkish Euroleague Regular Season. The visitors looked unbeatable after they grabbed a 12-21 in the first quarter, but Cantu outscored its opponent 40-15 in the middle two quarters, then built further on that lead to take a seemingly unbeatable 64-43 lead with five minutes to go. But Caja Laboral outscored the hosts 7-25 from then on, a rally that ended in the final seconds with a steal by Andrea Cinciarini. The winners got 18 points from Gianluca Basile on 6-of-9 three-point shooting, 14 points from Nicolas Mazzarino and 8 from Denis Marconato. Mirza Teletovic led the losers with 24 points and Bran Oleson added 12.
Caja Laboral jumped out front with 7 points by Teletovic, including a bomb from downtown. Cantu got its first basket after three minutes to get on the board at 2-7. Fernando San Emeterio and Teletovic drained a triple each to stretch the lead to 2-13 as Cantu struggled to score. Marconato scored in the paint, then Mazzarino buried a three-pointer to cut the lead to 7-15. After San Emeterio hit a fall-away for 2 points, Cantu center Giorgi Shermadini banked in layup and foul shot to pull within 10-15. The next 6 points belonged to the visitors on Teletovic foul shots, a tip-in by Joey Dorsey and San Emeterio’s bank shot in the paint to end the quarter with Caja Laboral up 12-21.
Cinciarini knocked down a pair of layups to start the quarter, then Basile got all net from beyond the arc, as the hosts climbed back in, 16-21. Goran Dragic scored on a drive with a foul shot, then Brad Oleson buried a triple as Caja Laboral opened the lead again, 19-27. Cantu produced the next surge, scoring 9 points in a row, capped by a triple by Mazzarino, to take its first lead of the night at 28-27. The teams pushed the score to 30-30 with a minute to go, then Basile nailed a triple and Micov finished off a steal with a layup as Cantu took over the scoreboard, 35-30, to close the half.
Cantu continued where it left off, hitting the first 5 points of the third quarter on foul shots by Micov and another three-pointer by Mazzarino, to extend the lead to double-digits, 40-30. Teletovic drained a baseline jumper to give Caja Laboral its first basket in four minutes, slicing the lead to 40-32. Manu Markoishvili put in a rainbow jumper in the paint and then buried a laser from downtown to extend the lead to 45-32. After Pau Ribas hit a two-pointer for the visitors, Basile banked in a triple to open a 48-34 lead. A layup by Marcanato finished the third, as Cantu’s margin grew to 52-34.
Nemanja Bjelica came up with Caja Laboral’s first 7 points to open the final quarter, but Marconato knocked down a baseline jumper and a red-hot Basile came up with a trio of triples, ballooning the lead to 64-43. But then the visitors rallied with 14 straight points, led by three-pointers by Bjelica, Pablo Prigioni and Oleson, to reduce the difference to 64-54. A Shermadini dunk finally ended the burst, but Teletovic kept the comeback going with another triple to pull to 66-60 with 2:36 on the clock. Teletovic and Oleson added 4 free throws, which cut the lead to 67-64 as the clock ran down to just over one minute. After Maarten Leunen hit 2 free throws, Teletovic drilled another three-pointer from deep, and put the score at 69-67 with 27 seconds to go. Bjelica split free throws to put Caja Laboral at Cantu’s doorstep, 69-68, but a steal by Cinciarini ended the furious rally and gave Mazzarino an easy layup as Cantu eked out the win, 71-68.
Thursday, December 1, 2011