An orange wave rolled over Slovenia on Tuesday night. Pamesa Valencia took a clear upper hand in the ULEB Cup Finals by invading Novo Mesto for a 78-90 victory over Krka in Game 1 of their two-game series. The first ULEB Cup champion will be decided on Thursday, April 24 in Valencia, Spain where Pamesa has not lost in eight previous ULEB Cup games this season. A wild first half saw Krka lose all of a 9-point first-quarter lead and Pamesa lose an even bigger one, 13 points, in the second. Late in the third quarter, however, Pamesa broke the game open for good behind a pair of three-pointers by Alejandro Montecchi and another by Jose Antonio Paraiso that beat the buzzer. Nacho Rodilla led five Pamesa scorers in double figures with 15 points, all but 2 of those in the first half. Fabricio Oberto added 14 points, Pedro Robles and Bernard Hopkins 12 each, and Paraiso 10. Oberto's 7 rebounds led a 32-19 Pamesa advantage on the boards. In the face of such inside strength, neither low turnovers (9) nor fine foul-shooting (19 for 20, 95%) could save Krka. The locals were led again by Jamie Arnold, who finished with 28 points. Aleksandar Capin added 20 and Marko Maravic 17, but apart from them and Boris Gnjidic, who had 7 points, the rest of Krka's team accounted for 6 points altogether.
Oberto opened the Finals by rebounding and putting back his own miss. His basket stood almost 2 minutes until Maravic nailed a three-pointer. After a Pamesa miss, Capin took the rebound the length of the floor and launched from the arc for a 6-2 Krka lead. Another scoreless minute passed for Valencia and was punctuated by Krka's third triple, by Arnold. Rodilla broke the spell for Pamesa, and Oberto added another to make it 11-6, but now Krka started answering inside. Marton Bader shot close in for 2 points, then Arnold added his own in the post for a whopping 17-8 Krka advantage after 5 minutes. But Pamesa was about to prove it could rattle off points, too. Rodilla and Dejan Tomasevic teamed up for 2 scores each in a 4-12 scoring run to take a 19-20 lead. But the best was yet to come for the guests. Robles lifted and drained his first three-point attempt, and after a layup by Arnold, Rodilla punctuated the comeback with a buzzer-beater, also from behind the arc, for a 21-26 Pamesa lead.
Pamesa's orange wave kept rolling into the second quarter. Oberto and Rodilla made layups, then Robles quickly added a pair of baskets as the visitors' lead shot up to 21-34. That amounted to a 4-26 swing since midway through the first quarter. Capin finally hit a shot for Krka almost 3 minutes into the quarter. Then, after a scoreless 60 seconds, he tried to put his team back in the game completely with back-to-back triples that got the hosts within 29-36. Tomasevic responded with a layup inside against a new zone by Krka, but Arnold and Capin made the next two baskets and the battle was joined again, 33-38, with 4 minutes left until the half. Hopkins added inside shot for Pamesa, but the momentum belonged to Krka. Maravic drilled his second triple and then came back downcourt and got 3 more points the hard way, on a layup and foul shot, to cut the Pamesa lead all the way down to 39-40. After a Hopkins layup, Boris Gnjidic stepped up and buried his own shot from downtown for a 42-42 tie. Pamesa kept going inside, however, to Hopkins again and then Brian Cardenal, for a 44-48 lead at the half. Capin had 15 points to lead all scorers after 20 minutes while Rodilla led Pamesa with 13.
A pair of free throws by Federico Kammerichs and a triple by Robles, giving him 12 points, put Krka's back to the wall again, down 44-53. That could only mean one thing: another comeback. Arnold's three-point play inside started this one, then he and Maravic bagged 2 free throws each and Capin drove for a layup. Only a Rodilla layup in the middle of all that saved Pamesa a two-point advantage, 53-55, after 25 minutes. But Krka and its crowd were pushing hard. Capin drew a foul and made 1 of 2 free throws for 54-55, but after Oberto's basket gave Pamesa some breathing space, Krka missed two shots in one possession and Hopkins make it pay at the other end, putting the visitors up 54-59. Gnjidic and Arnold got to the hoop to bring Krka within a point again, 58-59, but Alejandro Montecchia found himself free on the perimeter and connected for a triple and a 58-62 Pamesa lead after 27 minutes. Victor Luengo and Maravic exchanged free throws, but then Montecchia was left alone again. He detonated another triple for 60-67. Even when Maravic and Arnold added 4 points from the foul line to give the local fans hope at 64-68, it disappeared fast. There was still time for another Pamesa shot, and this time Montecchia assisted Jose Antonio Paraiso, who made it from downtown for a 64-71 Pamesa lead after 30 minutes.
Arnold's triple to open the final quarter and bring Krka within 67-71 stood as the only points for 2 minutes. Again, it was Montecchia who prevented further damage for Pamesa. His layup cancelled out one to follow by Maravic, whose foul then gave Paraiso the chance to hit 2 free throws for a 69-75 scoreboard. Oberto with a turnaround jumper to beat the shot clock and Luengo from further out put the handwriting on the wall as the guests' lead reached double-digits again, 69-79. Now it was less a question of winning for Krka than cutting away from the big Pamesa advantage. Arnold kept Krka's hopes alive with his hook over Tomasevic, 71-79, but Hopkins was unstoppable again in the paint, making it 71-82 with less than 2 minutes to go. Arnold emerged again with a shot from the arc and Capin gave a final word by hitting the mid-range jumper for 76-84. But with seconds to go, Luengo hit a providential three that broke the game open at 76-87. It was too late for Krka to make up. The last points by Oberto and another free throw by Luengo sealed Pamesa's victory at 78-90, earning the Spaniards a 12-point advantage to defend at home next week.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003