The duel between two already-qualified teams battling for the honor of first place in Group C was as spectacular as expected since RheinEnergie Cologne had to wait until the last minutes to beat Krka Novo Mesto at home, 87-83. With the win, RheinEnergie improves to 6-3, to tie with Krka, who drops to the same record after the loss. Zoran Kukic led the hosts with 22 points, Clint Harrison added 18 and Marvin Willoughby helped with 16. For the guests, Aleksandar Capin led all scorers with 24 points, Jamie Arnold bagged 18 and Slavko Duscak tallied 15.
A quick jumper from the side by Sasa Obradovic sparked a fast game on both sides, as only 2 minutes later, a pair of free throws by Marton Bader of Krka put a 8-6 score on the board. Consecutive layups by Marvin Willoughby for the hosts tied the game at 12-12 in minute 5, as RheinEnergie was shooting with an almost perfect accuracy, when it wasn't losing the ball first. But that wasn't enough as baskets by Boris Gnidic and Aleksandar Capin gave Krka a lead of 6 points. The 5 turnovers committed by RheinEnergie allowed the guests to be ahead during the rest of the first quarter, first leading 15-20, and maintaining that margine at 20-25 in minute 9. A three-pointer for each side in the last plays of the quarter, by Drazan Tomic of RheinEnergie and Capin of Krka, made the score 23-30 after 10 minutes. The second quarter started more defensive, as it took Obradovic 2 minutes to hit the first basket of the period, from the arc for 26-30. Vladimir Bogojevic's second three pulled Cologne within 31-33 and a layup by Harrison tied the game 33-33, forcing a timeout by Krka. Defenses on both sides kept on preventing the score from progressing until the hosts finally jumped ahead again, 37-33. But Krka was not about to surrender as a three by Bader tied the game again, 39-39. Two straight jumpers by Slavko Duscak for 39-43 forced the timeout from the hosts after the 2-10 run forged by Krka, which pushed the lead to 39-48 after Vladimir Anzulovic's three. A quick reaction from the hosts sealed by Stephen Arigbabu pulled them within 43-48 in the last minute of the quarter.
The second half was balanced again, with both teams going back and forth in the score. Two dunks by Willoughby for 51-50 put Cologne ahead again, but Krka was to be there as long as Anzulovic maintained his efficiency from the 6.25 line (55-57). A three.point play by Tomic for 62-59 sparked a 8-0 run for the hosts that would end at 67-59 after Harrison's three. Two final free throws by Capin, left Krka 8 points down to face the last quarter, 68-61, as the last plays of the third were rather improductive for neither team. The battle under the boards was also balanced, and that was reflected on the scoreboard as Krka rallied in minute 31 to 68-65 to make the game close again. Willoughby and Harrison emerged as the main pillars for their team in offense, but Krka had good counterparts in Capin and Arnold, so the game also being tight in most of the aspects of the game, it's not surprising that in minute 33, Capin hit his fourth three in four attempts to tie the game at 72-72. But the hosts had not said their last word yet, and a 8-0 run to forge a 80-72 score, looked like would be definitive for RheinEnergie. And it was, since in the last 5 minutes, the hosts played to maintain the small lead, even though Krka tried until the end through Arnold and Maravic for 83-79. Two free throws by Kukic put Cologne in the right path for the win.
Tuesday, January 7, 2003