Caja Laboral stays alive with thrilling win over Armani
Caja Laboral rallied from a 17-point deficit to pull out a 64-62 win over EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and stay alive in the hunt for the Top 16. Laboral now moves into a share of fifth place in Group C with Cedevita Zagreb with a 2-6 record, while Milan drops to 3-5 and holds on to fourth place with two games remaining. The visitors held a 23-40 lead in the second quarter and had a 14-point halftime advantage, but Caja Laboral rallied in the second half. In a thrilling finish, Thomas Heurtel ended up Laboral’s hero scoring a game-winning layup with 5 seconds remaining. On the other end, Gianluca Basile air-balled a potential game-winning three-point attempt as time expired. Fernando San Emeterio led Caja Laboral with a game-high 17 points, Maciej Lampe amassed 14 points plus 12 rebounds, while Heurtel finished with 11 points. Keith Langford scored 16 for Milan, Omar Cook had 14 and Ioannis Bourousis collected 11 points and 10 rebounds in defeat.
First quarter: Langford sparks Armani to early lead
Both teams needed some time to adjust in offense, as no one was able to score in the early going. IBourousis, with a layup, was the first to add points and give Milano its first lead after two minutes. Malik Hairston followed him with a pair of free throws, while Andres Nocioni found himself alone under the basket to open the scoring for the hosts. Langford hit from downtown after that to set a 2-6 visitors lead with six minutes to go in the quarter, but Brad Oleson came to the rescue quickly with back-to-back baskets for a 6-6 tie. Bourousis and Nocioni exchanged baskets to keep the balance until Lampe scored a nice hook shot for the first home lead of the night, 10-8, midway through the first period. A reaction came fast, as Cook and Langford combined for back-to-back threes that ended a bad shooting streak for the guests. Even though Nocioni scored on the following play, Hairston buried another three and Langford added two more from the line to extend Milano’s lead to 12-19 entering the last minute. Caja Laboral insisted on feeding Lampe inside, and the Polish center rewarded his team with a couple of free throws to finish the first quarter with Armani ahead 14-19.
Second quarter: Visitors don’t let up, lead reaches 17
Hairston opened fire in the second period, as Scariolo set a zone defense for his team to take advantage of Laboral’s poor long-distance shooting. The hosts resisted thanks to a better defensive job, waiting for the right moment to react. The chosen one to lead the comeback was San Emeterio, who scored a difficult one-leg jumper followed with Laboral’s first three of the night to make it a 2-point game. Scariolo called an urgent timeout and sent back Cook and Langford as the backcourt. Antonis Fotsis hit a bomb to keep his team calm, while Cook followed him with a long jumper for a 19-26 Armani lead midway through the second quarter. Bourousis made the hole even deeper after a great pass by Fotsis, before Basile showed up with a big fast-break three to cap a 0-10 run that turned the alarms red for the hosts, 19-31. Coach Tabak’s timeout didn’t pay off, as Bourousis kept hurting inside on every possession and turnovers became routine for the hosts. Langford’s layup made 19-35. Thing s got even worse for Laboral, as Nocioni committed his third foul and was called for a technical foul that sent him to the bench with his team trailing by 23-40 with one minute to go. The fans awoke, though, and pushed the home team to a reaction led by San Emeterio and Lampe, who reduced the gap a little bit, 28-40. Fotsis didn’t panic, and nailed a deep jumper after getting rid of Miljko Bjelica with a nice fake to finish the first half with a comfortable lead for the visitors, 28-42.
Third quarter: Laboral works its way back
Nemanja Bjelica went to the line right after the break to add points from the line, as Laboral showed more intensity on defense that forced back-to-back turnovers on Milano’s side. Heurtel hit a jumper to make it a 10-point game, but Cook answered immediately with a three to freeze the reaction. The visitors wasted consecutive offenses though, and San Emeterio exploited it to make a layup that kept Laboral in a positive mood. The differences remained stable for a while, as the hosts started controlling the board to amend the awful shooting night of their perimeter players. Bourousis beat the shot clock with a miracle three pointer, but Huertel came to the rescue with 5 consecutive points that brought Caja Laboral within 41-49. Lampe showed up as well, scoring off-the-offensive rebound to reduce the gap even more, but Rok Stipcevic found a corner three to extinguish the fire and set a 9-point lead for Milano, 43-52, entering the last two minutes of the third quarter. Langford added 1 more from the line before San Emeterio scored an acrobatic layup to finish the third quarter with the home team still alive, 44-52.
Fourth quarter: Hosts never quit, Heurtel is the hero
Lampe scored a mid-range jumper after the break to make it a 6-point game but, once again, the visitors found a three from Cook to keep a safe margin. Miljko Bjelica went to the line to add 2 more points and followed with an assist off-a-steal to Carlos Cabezas to bring Laboral within 5 points. The visitors seemed blocked in offense, insisting too much on long-distance shooting, while Laboral ruled under the boards. Nocioni hit a difficult shot to reduce the gap to 53-56, and even though Langford found himself open at the corner to hit an important three, Miljko Bjelic dunked to bring his team closer, 55-59, before Coach Sergio Scariolo called for a timeout with less than five minutes to go. Both teams were scoreless for a couple of minutes, showing some anxiety, until Lampe made it a o1ne-point game with a lucky banked three point shot. Fotsis tried to reply him from the same distance, but missed, and Lampe kept rocking to draw a foul inside and tie the game at 59-59 with two minutes to go. Cook remained calm and came to the rescue to hit a three that returned the lead to EA7 Milano, but San Emeterio imitated him with a deep one that brought the fans to their feet entering the last minute. Cook turned the ball over in the next possession, giving the ball to Oleson, who drew a foul. Although Oleson missed both free throws, Lampe grabbed the rebound and allowed Laboral to have the last possession for the win. Heurtel took over and played one-on-one against Langford to score a difficult layup with 5 seconds to go. EA7 Milano prepared the last play, but ran out of time and Laboral forced Basile to take a difficult corner three that turned into an airball and granted Laboral its first home victory to remain alive in Group C.
Thursday, November 29, 2012