FIBA Eurochallenge, three through to Q/F

FIBA EurochallengeIt was a night of progression in the FIBA Eurochallenge as the four games on Thursday produced three clubs that qualified for the Quarter Finals. There will be no sweating during the final round of the Second Stage next week for Avtodor Saratov, Rovinari, and the Skyliners as they all punched their ticket to the knockout phase of the FIBA Eurochallenge.

Group I
Energia Targu-Jiu Rovinari defeated BC Astana by a single point at home (90-89) in a game that decided which of the teams reached the Quarter Finals. The Romanian club also sewed up first place in Group I (currently 4-1), while Astana dropped to last place on head to heads, but will go into next week with a chance of qualifying from 2-3. The visitors edged the first half 30-32, but Rovinari hit back in the third quarter before the teams could not be separated down the stretch. With the board reading 78 apiece through regulation, the contest headed to overtime.

In the added period the hosts reeled in Astana thanks to Giordan Watson, who provided a game winning contribution when he netted the final five points of the clash. Indeed, Watson had been the go to guy at the bucket for Rovinari throughout and he topped the scoring with 23 points. Jerry Johnson bettered that haul for Astana as he paced to a game high 25 points while also adding 6 assists.

Group J
A loss for Magnofit Gussing Knights at home against Turkish club USAK Sportif would have eliminated the Austrian club from this season’s FIBA Eurochallenge. However, the hosts put in a huge display to win the game 91-63 and keep its chances of qualification alive. Both the Knights and USAK now sit on 2-3 records and will need results to be kind to catch Le Mans and Nanterre next week, but the contests will be in their hands as USAK hosts Le Mans and the Knights visit Nanterre.

The hosts went big in the first half and opened the game in fine fashion, building to a 20-11 lead after ten minutes. By time the buzzer for the long break sounded, the Knights had extended thanks to a big 28-16 second quarter run and led 48-27. The writing was already on the wall for USAK, but the visitors dug deep to win the third act 13-21, making it 61-48 after half hour and at least making it interesting. However, the home team found top gear again and eased down the stretch in the fourth.

Thomas Klepeisz was stunning for Gussing as he neared a triple double on the night by collecting 24 points, 10 assists, and 7 boards. Marcus Heard aided his team mate with 22 points of his own as the pair set the pace in the winning effort.

Group K
Group K has been decided before the final round next week as both the Fraport Skyliners and Avtodor Saratov booked their places in the next stage of the tournament. Avtodor swept aside Tartu Rock 68-91 on the road to move to 4-1 in the standings. The Russian club lost the first quarter 23-18, but responded with 8 unanswered points to start the second frame before carving a 34-44 lead at the midway buzzer. Paced by a triple double from Courtney Forston, the visitors never looked back. Indeed, Forston is a cert for player of the week thanks to his incredible haul of 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 13 scoring passes. While Travis Peterson could not match the heights of his team mate, he added his own double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.

In the other contest, German club Fraport Skyliners edged past Den Bosch 92-94 on the road. The Dutch hosts would have kept slim hopes of qualifying with victory and they looked dangerous throughout. However, the Skyliners punched their ticket after a hard fought victory, progressing to 4-1 and heading to a Round 6 showdown with Avtodor to decide first place in Group K. In an incredible game, the teams could not be separated through regulation time and even a first overtime period did little to clear the scoreboard. In the second added frame, the visitors found the extra legs to snatch the win.

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