After five weeks of trying vainly, Zalgiris Kaunas finally seized its first victory in Group B with a close 81-78 decision Thursday against visiting Peristeri. The victory came as most do, with an all-around effort from Zalgiris, with high marks going to Dainius Salenga and Steve Woodberry, who scored 18 points each. The man of the match, however, was Donatas Slanina, who shook off some sticky defense by Peristeri the whole night to finish with a game-high 22 points. For Peristeri, Michael Andersen had a double double of 13 points and 12 rebounds while Adam Wojcik once again led his team with 21 points. Byron Dinkis added 14 for Peristeri and Alexis Papadatos 15, all on three-pointers, some from up to eight meters. Despite shooting 12-24 from three-point distance overall, Peristeri fell to 2-4, while Zalgiris improves to 1-5. Most importantly, hope is alive again in Kaunas.
Sticky defense by Giedrius Gustas forced two quick personal fouls on Byron Dinkins, Peristeri's general, who could not then control the tempo. Zalgiris took off to a 7-2 lead with 5 points from Slanina. Peristeri big men Wojcik and Andersen brought their team back, forming a great wall to stop Zalgiris's drives, to make it a tie, 11-11. The period ended with Woodberry putting on showtime (7 points in a row), but a big three by Mikalis Pelekanos reduced the edge to mere two points, 14-16 for Zalgiris.
To offset Peristeri¿s muscle power, Zalgiris coach Algirdas Brazys sent on court newly-signed Rolandas Matulis. But it was Peristeri's Alexis Papadatos who sparked some fireworks with 2 three-pinters then imitated by Dinkins and Salenga. An inspired Woodberry kept his team afloat at 33-29 with Salenga who came up with nine points and shattered the boards in the span of a few minutes. Wojcik sank a three to keep his team in the game but Peristeri¿s defense coud not contain Woodberry, who penetrated for easy layups or pull-up rainbow shots. With 15 points and 5 rebounds, he was the man of the half as Zalgiris led 45-37. Salenga was doing well with 12 points), whereas Andersen was Peristeri's leading man with 10 points and 9 rebounds already.
After intermission, Peristeri set out on a 7-0 run with six points by Wojcik while Zalgiris cannot find the way to basket for almost four minutes. Dinkins was doing it again, scoring from downtown and from the paint, and Brazys sent out ¿bulldog¿ Gustas to stop him. Zalgiris posted an 11-0 run to take control 60-49 for Zalgiris. Despite a fourth foul to top rebounder Grygorij Hiznjak, Zalgiris entered the final period with a sound 64-55 margin.
Dinkins got a fourth foul, too, but Wojcik opened the fourth quarter by dominating on both ends: grabbing rebound, stealing, making threes and dunking. When Papadakos hit 2 threes in a row, it reduced the Zalgiris lead to just two points, 69-67, with 5 minutes to go. But the thrill was served again at the Kaunas arena!!! Wojcik committed his fourth fouls as Slanina slalomed for two baskets. An excellent performance by Papadatos was enhanced by a huge three-pointer and a steal from Hiznjak. Woodberry missed a free throw with 33 seconds left and Giorgos Pantazopoulos stepped forward to hit a 7-meter three-pointer. It was suddenly 77-76. Slanina sank two at the charity line, but it was still not the end as Dinkins made two with 8 seconds left. But Zalgiris got the ball to Woodberry, who scored a layup to end the suspense and put his team in the win column finally.
Thursday, November 15, 2001
Arunas Pakula, Kaunas