All but given up for dead two weeks ago, when it was the last winless team in the ULEB Cup, Anwil Wloclawek roared back into Group B contention with a thrilling 76-77 victory at Strasbourg on Tuesday. Anwil's first-ever ULEB Cup road win raised its record to 2-5, good for a fifth-place tie with Besiktas Cola Turka. The are two victories behind Strasbourg, which dropped to 4-3 record, and two teams with which it splits second place, Ventspils and Snaidero. Anwil surprised Strasbourg by coming out tough to lead 4-11 and taking a 16-29 advantage early in the second quarter. Strasbourg climbed within 36-42 at halftime, and took the lead for the first time at 50-49. The game became close, the leading team changed a lot of times, but Andrzej Pluta didn't miss his last 6 free throws to help Anwil seal the win. Pluta led the winners with 20 points. Seid Hajric added 18 points with 6 rebounds and Wiktor Grudzinski chipped in 11 with 6 boards. Aerick Sanders led five double-figure scorers for Strasbourg with 17 points and 8 rebounds. Lonnie Cooper tallied 16 and dished 6 assists, Afik Nissim bagged 15 with 7 assists, Claude Marquis netted 13 with 6 rebounds and Chuck Eidson contributed 10.
Hajric opened fire for Anwil before Pluta from downtown boosted the guests in front 2-5. Chuck Eidson answered for Strasbourg, but back-to-back baskets by Hajric pushed Anwil ahead 4-11. Cooper posted free throws and Pluta popped from mid-range as the score hit 10-15. Cooper helped Strasbourg get closer at 14-17 but Grudzinski had 4 points in a 0-10 run that pushed the visitors from Anwil to a 16-26 advantage as Bartlomiej Woloszyn hit a jumper to finish the first quarter. Pluta extended the lead with a bomb early in the second quarter, but Nissim close a scoreless stretch for Strasbourg to get within 19-29. Marck Dickel helped manage Anwil's lead as Claude Marquis tried to rally Strasbourg. Still, with a soft jumper and Hajric driving to the basket kept Anwil in charge at 23-35. Cooper and Sanders scored consecutive baskets to trim Strasbourg's deficit back to single digits, then the hosts used a 2-3 zone defense and another Sanders score to get within 32-38. The momentum stayed with Strasbourg as Afik hit free throws to lock in a 36-42 halftime scoreboard.
Cooper opened the third quarter scoring from the baseline and then drilling a three-pointer to cut the margin to 41-42 after just 70 seconds. Sanders missed a potential go-ahead shot to go ahead and Hairic made a dunk to wake up Anwil. Dickel posted a triple from the corner and Anwil was leading 43-49, but Marquis dropped in a basket underneath, Eidson copied him from mid-range, and Nissim from beyond the arc gave Strasbourg its first lead at 50-49. Anwil did not wilt, however. Mladen Soskic fueled the guests until Hajric scored 4 points in a row to restor a 50-55 Anwil margin. Nissim made a miracle triple to beat the 24-seconds shot-clock buzzer and Sanders slammed to ball for another tie, 55-55, after 28 minutes. Nissim went again inside to Sanders and he was ready to convert the assist, adding a free throw to take a 58-55 advantage. Zbigniew Bialek rallied Anwil to tie 60-60 on his three-point play with 12 seconds left in the third quarter, before Dirk Madrich beat the buzzer for Strasbourg to enjoy a 62-60 cushion after 30 minutes. Grudzinski tied it up agin early in the last quarter and Woloszyn stole to find the easy go-ahead points at 62-64. Soskic drew a charge and then hit a three.pointer to beat Strasbourg's 2-3 zone, making it 64-69 and forcing the home team to call timeout. The hosts switched on man-to-man defense, but Dickel beat it going to the basket before Marquis stopped a long Strasbourg scoreless slide to keep his team within 68-71 with 4 minutes left. The drama heightened as Cooper beat the shot clock from beyond the arc to tie again at 71-71, and Sanders scored 1 of 2 free throws to retake the lead for Strasbourg. But Pluta wasn't giving up. He didn't miss his 4 free throws and they gave Anwil a new adavantage, 72-75 with 90 seconds to play. Sanders put Strasbourg closer and even though Pluta made 2 more free throws, Eidson converted an offensive rebound to make it 76-77. When Pluta missed his last layup attempt and Hairjc couldn't control the rebound, Mike Smith had a chance to win it for Strasbourg with a three-pointer at the buzzer. It missed, however, meaning that Anwil lived to fight another day in Group B.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006