Charleroi of Belgium prevented two teams from taking a place in the next round when it stopped visiting Group D leader Metis Varese 79-71. The victory boosted Charleroi into a third-place tie with Zadar at 4-4. It also forced Varese to share first place with Caprabo Lleida at 5-3, and both teams would have advanced to the next round had Charleroi lost. Jim Potter led the winners with 20 points and was decisive in breaking a tie game with 2 minutes left in Charleroi's favor. LeRon Ellis added 14 points for Charleroi. Boris Gorenc was the scoring ace for Varese with 19 points.
Charleroi entered very well in the game (16-5) but Varese reacted with a zone defense which managed him to limite the gap after the first quarter: 23-17. Charleroi tried then again to launch Italians (44-33) but they refused (47-42 at halve time). So the game was very tied till the 38th minutes (71-71), time chosen by Potter and faison to enter a 3 points. It was over.
Charleroi had no choice but to beat the leader of the group, Varese. And that urgency could be felt from the very beginning of the game. Charleroi's defense was playing very hard and its shooters started out very precise in staking a 9-1 lead The first Italian basket did not fall for a full 5 minutes. Varese was trying to accelerate and penetrate but Charleroi was still playing faster, so it got free shoots. Ellis took full advantage for 8 points in the first quarter. But the zone defense of Varese soon made Charleroi doubt and it took vetern Jacques Stas to maintain an advantage of 23-17 for Charleroi after 10 minutes.
Varese came back with the intention of imposing itself under the rims, and succeeded inasmuch as Charleroi was suddenly missing rebounds. Gorenc and Sasa Knezevic were doing a great job together on the perimeter, and Varese took the commands for the first time at 25-26. Varese had already used 10 players in 15 minutes and tried to maintain intensity levels that way. But Ellis poured in his fourth three-pointer and Potter was dominating the quarter with 13 points. So Charleroi reached halftime ahead 47-42.
The second half was a long battle under the rims, with both defense refusing to let the other control game. But Charleroi became nervous as attested by three offensive fouls, which was contrasting with the serenity and patience of Varese, where Gorenc was everywhere. The entry of Stas brought back calm to Charleroi, which concluded the third quarter still ahead, 61-58. But the locals did not completely solve their problem of making it to the basket. Slowly but surely, Varese was now taking the game under control, though not going beyond a tie score of 71-71 with 2 minutes left. That is when Potter stepped out with a three to end the discussion and Marcus Faison copied him to make sure. Charleroi had not only kept its hopes up for the next round, but had shaken the foundations of Group D a little.
Wednesday, December 18, 2002