Italy: Sassari and EA7 Milan to meet in the finals
Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari and EA7 Emporio Armani Milan are the finalists of the Italian Cup. Sassari hit 12 triples on its way to 77-65 win over Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia. The key to Sassari’s win was the third quarter, when recently signed center Kenneth Kadji scored 7 of his 12 points in a run that broke 41-41 tie, and with help of Rakim Sanders and Jeff Brooks opened 57-46 lead. Sassari allowed only a single basket in the first four minutes of the final quarter, as David Logan and Jerome Dyson kept the margin in double figures. Logan netted 16 points and Dyson had 15 shooting 4-for-4 from three-point range. Sanders added 13 in victory, while Rimantas Kaukenas paced Reggio Emilia with 21 points.
In Sunday’s final game, Sassari will defend its Cup title against EA7 Milan which pulled away late to beat Enel Brindisi 76-65. Milan took control with a 24-4 first quarter run during which MarShon Brooks scored 10 and Samardo Samuels 7 points. However, Milan’s offense started to struggle in the second quarter, and Brindisi even took a brief lead behind a 0-10 run. Milan went into halftime with 36-33 advantage, and remained in front in the third. Margin reached 56-47 at the end of the quarter, but Jacob Pullen and Massimo Bulleri hit back-to-back threes at the start of the fourth to get Brindis within a single possession. Linas Kleiza hit triple for 63-53, but Brindisi replied with a pair of long range daggers to stay close. However, Milan never relinquished the lead, and a pair of fastbreaks behind Kleiza’s defense lifted the margin back to double digits, and Kleiza added a three-pointer for 74-63, sealing the deal. Brooks finished with 14 points, Samuels had 13, Moss and Daniel Hackett each scored 12, and Kleiza had 10 in victory.
Spain: Barcelona and Real Madrid to play for the trophy
FC Barcelona rallied behind a 23-4 fourth quarter run and defeated Unicaja Malaga 87-79 to reach the finals of the Spanish Cup in Gran Canaria. In Sunday’s final, Barcelona will face its arch-rival Real Madrid which beat Joventut Badalona 83-100 in the other semifinal. This will be Barcelona's sixth consecutive Cup final, and fifth time it plays Madrid. In the first semi on Saturday, neither Barcelona nor Unicaja managed to pull away during the first three quarters. Triples from Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Caleb Greeb and Jon Stefansson put Unicaja up 32-39 late in the second quarter, and Green opened the second half with a three-pointer for 34-42. But Barcelona rallied with baskets inside from Ante Tomic, and long distance shots from Tomas Satoransky and Justin Doellman. Back-to-back threes from Brad Oleson helped Barcelona to 53-51 lead, and teams traded baskets and ended up being tied at 59-59 after three quarters. Kostas Vasileiadis hit a triple to open the fourth quarter, as Unicaja hit 13 of its first 21 three-point attempts at that point, and when German Gabriel made a tough shot and Stefan Markovic a runner, it put Unicaja up 62-68. However, Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual turned to a small lineup, and Mario Hezonja sparked things with a three-pointer and a layup for 69-68. Tomas Satoransky had a fastbreak dunk, Maciej Lampe added a layup of his own, before triples from Brad Oleson and another one from Hezonja made it 81-72. Another shot from downtown, this time from Lampe, extended the lead to double-digits with under 2 minutes to go, as Barcelona had 85-72 entering the final minute and victory in its hands. DeShaun Thomas scored 13 points, Hezonja 12, and Oleson 11 in victory. Tomic amassed 10 points plus 10 rebounds for Barcelona. Kuzminskas scored 13 and Jayson Granger finished with 12 points and 7 assists for Unicaja which hit Spanish Cup record 14 triples, but could not avoid elimination.
Madrid trailed 52-46 at halftime, but opened the third quarter with a 0-9 run behind Gustavo Ayon and Felipe Reyes. The run soon continued, as Jonas Maciulis and Sergio Llull buried back-to-back threes, Ayon made another basket inside, and Rudy Fernandez capped a 3-23 spurt during the opening 7 minutes of the second half for 55-69 lead. Madrid never looked back, with Llull hitting one and Sergio Rodriguez two more threes early in the fourth for 67-82, and Los Blancos cruised to victory. Llull knocked down 5 of 5 triples for 19 points, Rodriguez scored 15 and dished 7 assists. Ayon had 13 points, Fernandez 12, and Reyes 11 in victory.
Serbia: Zvezda handles arch-rival Partizan
Two-time holder Crvena Zvezda Telekom defeated its arch-rival Partizan NIS 67-76 to reach the finals of the Serbian Cup where Zvezda will face Mega Leks in a re-match of last year’s final. Zvezda controlled the game against Partizan for majority of 40 minutes. It started building the lead in the first quarter as Luka Mitrovic and Nikola Kalinic each buried a three-pointer. Zvezda had 18-26 after 10 minutes, and a triple from Branko Lazic extended it to 21-33 in the second. Milan Macvan, Milenko Tepic and Mihailo Andric with a basket-plus-free throw held Partizan in range, but Zvezda’s lead reached 13 point before Sasha Pavlovic hit a three to end the first half, 34-43. However, Partizan stepped it up on defense after the break, holding Zvezda to a single basket for more than 6 minutes, and cutting it to 42-45. But Maik Zirbes ended Zvezda’s drought, and with a triple from Charles Jenkins and 6 straight points from Nikola Kalinic, Zvezda again pushed the margin into double figures, 44-56. Milan Macvan nailed a triple to end the third quarter, and capped an 8-0 run with a basket at the start of the fourth, 52-56, but Zvezda pulled away once again with a triple from Jaka Blazic for 54-63. By controlling rebounds and Blazic making couple more baskets, Zvezda’s lead was never threatened. Blazic led the way with 15 points and 6 rebounds, Kalinic had 11 and Boban Marjanovic contributed with 10 points in victory. For Partizan, Macvan finished with 20 points.
Earlier on Saturday, Mega Leks cruised into the finals with 66-85 win over Vrsac. Mega used 6-25 third quarter to open insurmountable 41-70 margin, cruising to victory. Rade Zagorac paced in victory with 17 points, Nenad Miljenovic had 13 points with 7 assists, and Nemanja Krstic also scored 14 for Mega.
Slovenia: Krka wins its second Cup
Krka Novo Mesto defended its title by downing the host team Zlatorog Lasko 77-67 in the finals of the Slovenian Cup on Saturday. In a hard-fought game where leads went back and forth for 36 minutes, Krka made a push when Malcolm Armstead made a layup, and Chris Booker hit a triple for 69-63 with 2:22 left in the game. Armstead made more clutch plays, grabbing an offensive rebound which led to Aleksis Wangmene’s layup, then Armstead sank 4-fo-4 foul shots in the final minute to seal the deal. Tournament MVP Booker and Armstead led in victory with 18 points apiece, while Miha Lapornik scored 21 in the losing effort.
Lithuania: Rivals Rytas and Zalgiris set another showdown
Lietuvos Rytas is once again in the finals of the Lithuanian Cup after rallying from a double-digit deficit to down Siauliai 71-61 on Saturday in Kaunas. Siauliai led 30-42 at the start of the third quarter, but Gedeminas Orelik first halved that deficit, and soon after Rytas turned it on defense finishing the quarter with a 9-1 run for 57-56 lead. Rytas then scored first 11 points of the fourth quarter, and did not allow a single point for more than 7 minutes while completing a 20-1 spurt. It opened 68-56 advantage with under 3 minutes to go, paving the way to victory. Orelik finished with 18 points, Billy Baron had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, while Antanas Kavaliauskas had 13 points and 7 boards in victory. Rytas has been in the finals every single time it participated since 2007, however it was absent from the competition in 2012 and 2013.
Rytas will try to win its fourth Cup title against Zalgiris Kaunas which eased past Juventus 65-91 in the other semifinals clash. Zalgiris opened the game with a 11-0 run, and never looked back. It kept the margin in double-digits and held 48-34 halftime lead, before breaking a 20-point barrier in the third quarter and closing out the game. Arturas Milaknis paced to victory with 19 points, Arturas Gudaitis scored 12, while Siim-Sander Vene had 10 points. A day earlier in the quarterfinals, Zalgiris crushed Lietkabelis 86-58 while Lietuvos Rytas bet Alytus Dzukia 78-63.
France: Strasbourg, Le Mans win semifinal thrillers
Strasbourg and the reigning holder Le Mans are the finalists of the Leaders Cup. Strasbourg claimed its place by downing JDA Dijon after overtime 79-72. Strasbourg opened the game with 11-2 lead, but that happened to be the biggest margin of the game. Erwing Walker rallied Dijon back before the end of the first quarter, and teams remained close, trading leads throughout four quarters. It was 49-49 after 30 minutes, before Andre Harris and Walker put together a 2-9 run for 55-60 Dijon advantage. Strasbourg regained advantage as Antoine Diot, Jeremy Leloup and Louis Campbell replied with a 9-2 run. Kris Joseph made it 64-66 in the final minute, but Diot forced overtime with a pair of free throws. Strasbourg never looked back after Diot and Axel Toupane opened the extra session with three-pointers, and Toupane added couple more baskets for 77-68, icing the win. Diot finished with 22 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Leloup had 17 points, Campbell 12 with 7 boards, and Matt Howard collected 11 points. Steven Gray had 19 points for Dijon, Walker scored 18 and Harris 17 in defeat.
Le Mans will challenge for its fourth Leaders Cup title after holding off SLUC Nancy 62-64. Le Mans took the lead for good midway through the third quarter on a basket from Michal Ignerski for 39-41. Baskets were few and far between, and the lead was slim until Ignerski sank a three and Charles Kahudi made a pair of baskets for 49-58 with under 5 minutes to go in the game. Vaughn Duggins, Keydren Clark and Florent Pietrus rallied Nancy, but in the final minute Pietrus twice split free throws, and Le Mans held on. Kahudi scored 15 in victory, Ignerski and C.J. Wallace netted 11 apiece. Clark scored 18 in defeat, while Pietrus finished with 13 points plus 11 rebounds.