Zadar lost 78-64 at Gravelines, but advanced after a 23-point win in the first leg
What had looked lopsided beforehand turned into one of the fights of the night on Tuesday, but KK Zadar survived to make the quarterfinals despite a 78-64 loss to proud Gravelines in northern France. Zadar needed all 23 points by which it won the first game of the series 94-71 at home to make it to the next round. Zadar had resist Gravelines to the very last, and only a 0-8 run in the last 2 minutes gave the Croatian guests the pass to the quarterfinals. That came despite an enormous rebounding disadvantage (45-26) and a bad shooting percentage, 21 for 63 (33%) compared to Gravelines' 29 for 62 (47%). The hero of the game was guard Marko Popovic, who nailed the key points in the last minute, and led his team with 24 points and 10 fouls received. Michael Meeks followed with 17 key points. Gravelines, which suffered 17 turnovers and had only two steals, got 25 points from Ali Bouziane. He was followed by Cedric Miller and Danny Strong with 11 each.
Both teams started very nervous. Gravelines suffered too many turnovers in the first part of the game (10 in the first two quarters) trying to force the pace while Zadar tried to put the breaks on. Poor scoring made the game become very chopped, with many mistakes. Almost 10 possessions passed before a point was scored from anywhere but the foul line, and after 4 minutes the score was still 1-0 on a Frankie King free throw. Igor Perica tried to unlock the door, and sank a triple for Gravelines, but on the other side Popovic lit up his team with 2 threes in a row. Perica was the first option for the hosts, while Meeks also proved he was there to play for Zadar. The first quarter ended with guests ahead 12-14, but low scoring was useful for them, as the tempo of the game was low. Meeks nailed his 10th point as Zadar took important 17-22 lead in the second quarter, but then guests relaxed and Gravelines answered with a huge 18-0 run thanks Bouziane, King and Geoff Lear. Gravelines denied any way to the basket to Zadar for 6 minutes, and a new game began as the hosts took a 13-point edge right before the end of the first half, 35-22. Mladen Erjavec stopped the slide with an important three-pointer so Zadar could reach intermission with just 10 points to make up, 35-25.
Gravelines tried to throw a knockout punch in the second half, led once again by Miller and Bouziane. The hosts took a big 18-point lead, at 43-25, but first-game hero Damir Tvrdic stopped the fun with a three for Zadar Branimir Longin hit a couple of important baskets, and reduced the gap to 13 points. Gravelines didn't lose confidence, and once again French team made a huge effort to run away. With a great 17-6 run, the hosts took a 22-points lead at the end of the third period, making the last quarter become a 10-minutes long overtime, since Zadar had won the first game by 23. Gravelines started the last quarter witn another 4-0 mini-run in the first 3 minutes, running away by 26 points, 64-38, and taking the first lead of the series in the point advantage. But that's when Popovic hit one important triple to stop the escape of Gravelines. The last period went by with Gravelines trying to make the last, decisive effort to take the win home, but Zadar never gave up and with Meeks and Popovic once again kept adding points until the end. Gravelines had 22 points to defend, 76-54, with little less than 2 minutes to go. Popovic and Strong traded baskets for 78-56, but in the last 90 seconds Gravelines ran out of energy as Popovic led his team on an 0-8 run to close the series.
Tuesday, February 11, 2003