Oostende of Belgium took advantage of a weakened Top 16 pre-qualifier and finished its Euroleague campaign with an 88-81 victory for the home crowd over visiting Scavolini Pesaro in Group D. Oostende raised its record to 3-11, not enough to rise out of the basement of the group, but good enough to claim the same record as Belgian rival Charleroi at the end of the regular season. For its part, Scavolini finished 8-6, in a three-way tie for fourth with Asvel and Ural Great. Ural took third when tiebreakers were applied and Asvel fifth, out of the Top 16. Scavolini knew a week before that it had clinched a Top 16 spot, so when inside-out stars Joseph Blair and Miroslav Beric were hurting this week, neither travelled to Belgium. As a result of the loss, Scavolini won't have much travelling to do in the Top 16, as it is joined in Group E by two more Italian teams, Benetton Treviso and Skipper Bologna, as well as Barcelona of Spain.
Although Pesaro had to play without Blair and Beric, two of their main players, they had no difficulties penetrating Oostende's defense with Middleton and Johnson. But Oostende'sPraskevicius had just as much success at the other end just as quickly, forcing two early fouls out of Maggioli, and the game was tied at 4-4. Both teams played evenly through the first six minutes which was reflected in the score, 16-15. Oostende played well as a team, dishing out 3 assists, with Beghin reaping the benefits with 6 points. Pesaro kept going inside where the defense had not succeeded in stopping Johnson. But, then Oostende decided to use a zone, which proved useful as they led 28-23 after the first quarter. In the period, Oostende scored on 10 of its 16 attempts and grabbed 4 more rebounds than Pesaro.
In the second, Booker decided to take the game into his own hands. He scored 6 points in a row to make it 28-29, and forced two fouls out of Giedraitis who was replaced by Major. But the difference was also on defense as Pesaro held Oostende scoreless during three minutes. Coach Casteels called a timeout Which seemed to help as his team came back out and tightened the game at 30-31 after five minutes. Scavolini's Tusek then transformed two offensive rebounds into points before Biggs and Cota brought Oostende back into the lead 36-35. Oostende was again ahead but still had problems stopping Johnson (11 pts), Tusek (10 pts) and Booker (10). But Biggs' 11 points and Beghin's 10 explained the halftime tie at 42-42.
Middleton came out from the locker rooms very precise (3 for 3, 8 points) but Praskevicius kept pace netting eight of his own, as Oostende had a one-point lead after five minutes, 52-51. It was this moment when Oostende chose to accelerate. Taking advantage of Booker's and Tusek's poor shooting (combined 1 for 8), they ran some fast breaks to jump ahead 60-52, thanks to the play of Biggs and Major. Cota and Praskevicius added their touches as well to give Oostende a 66-58 lead at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth, the tempo of the game suddenly accelerated and Oostende profitted from the faster rhythm taking a 73-60 lead off two Pesaro turnovers. Scavolini called for a timeout as only Johnson was still managing to have any effect cracking Oostende's defense. Despite Johnson's hard work, and both Biggs' and Praskevicius' picking up their fourth fouls, the score did not reflect the effort as Oostende still led 77-67. Pesaro toughened up their game as Major picked up his fifth and had to leave the game which left Booker open to run off 5 straight points and cut it to just three, 80-77, with two minutes to go. Scavolini showed a lot of heart at the end of the game but Oostende, led down the stretch by Cota and Biggs, refused to give it up and pulled out the 88-81 victory.
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Stephane Druart, Oostende