Observing the golden rule of defending the home floor at all costs, Skipper Bologna joined the ranks of Euroleague winners on Wednesday with an 88-78 Group A victory over visiting Alba Berlin. Skipper led most of the way but had to fend off the German champs from taking a lead early in the fourth quarter. From that point, the hosts were able to keep a safe distance by holding Alba to just 4 points in 7 minutes to seal the victory. Among a real team effort, center Mate Skelin stood out with 18 points, Gianluca Basile added 15 and Lubos Barton 14. Dejaun Collins of Alba led all scorers with 27 points and Marko Pesic added 21, but was largely stopped by Skipper after the half. The victory lifts Skipper to 1-0 and puts Alba in an 0-2 hole to start the regular season.
Without sharpshooter Vlado Scepanovic, Skipper coach Matteo Boniciolli decided to line up newcomers Carlos Delfino and Lubos Barton to fill up the back court together with Gianluca Basile, and with Mate Skelin and Giacomo Galanda beneath the basket. Alba lined up the usual starting team with Quadre Lollis, Henrik Rodl, Jovo Stanojevic, and DeJuan Collins. Lollis started overplaying Galanda to avoid Fortitudo taking advantage of the mismatch. Both teams seemed nervous to start, as Alba did not score for the initial minutes, allowing Fortitudo take an early 5-0 lead despite missing some easy shots. Marko Pesic finally lit Alba's fuse with a triple after almost 4 minutes, but Alba's main problem then was guarding Delfino one-on-one. Delfino was outmuscling Rodl, so Alba coach Emir Mutapcic decided to try Stefano Garris. Just 4 points by Pesic were all Alba produced through 5 minutes, before Collins stole from Basile for an easy layup on the break. Skipper still handled the lead of the game, thanks to Barton, at 13-8 after 6 minutes. Boniciolli lined up his twin point guards, Basile and Gianmarco Pozzecco, but Alba converted a couple of turnovers to pull within 16-13. Now, Skelin pumped up the volume inside the paint, drawing three fouls and forcing Stanojevic to the bench for Alba in favor of Kevin Rankin. Skelin's free throws pushed Skipper ahead 20-13 lead in the last minute, but Collins kept Alba in the game with 5 points in a row that made it 22-19 after 10 minutes.
Skelin became the go-to guy for Skipper at the beginning of second period, with two quick dunks. Pesic scored a three for Alba and sent Delfino to the bench with his third foul, but Skipper still took back a nine-point lead, 31-22. Thanks to Pesic's drives inside, Alba not only stayed in touch with Skipper, but made points in a hurry, cutting the deficit to 35-34. Pesic was the man for the visitors, a real a thorn in Skipper's side, nailing 19 points in 19 minutes and keeping Alba within 42-40 just 90 seconds before the half. After that, however, Alba did not score a single point and let 6 points through its defense as Fortitudo reestablished a decent lead, 48-40, at the half. By then, Skipper owned the boards witha 19-8 advantage, including 11 on offense to 0 for Alba. Skelin was leading the hosts with 14 points.
Foul troubles hit both teams after halftime, with Delfino still seated and Stanojevic rejoining Alba's bench with his fourth foul. Skipper still looked inside to Skelin and Galanda to maintain its double-digit lead at 58-48, while Alba's offence revolved around Pesic. Mutapcic called for a zone defense to preserve fouls and enhance rebounding. Skipper missed a couple of open threes by young Robert Fultz, but often found second shots thanks to offensive boards to save its lead, whish stood at 63-56 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter. Alba changed back to man-to-man defense, and Boniciolli called on Pozzecco, who suddenly gave Skipper 2 assists and a couple of free throws good for another 10-point edge. Collins took Alba by hand, however, sinking 2 triples from downtown in the last half-minute to draw his team just 4 behind, 69-65, after 30 minutes.
Collins opened the final quarter with a huge offensive rebound and put-back. Alba then had two chances to tie up the score, but Pesic and Collins both missed. Tomas Van Den Spiegel gave Skipper a little breathing room at 71-67 with two points from beneath the basket and then Pozzecco sank a key triple to make it 74-67. Barton was maintaining the great job on offensive boards started by Skelin, who nonetheless grabbed the key one and passed out to Basile for the game-set-match three-pointer. Barton followed with a three of his own for good measure. The lead was 12 points, 81-69. Alba was out of energy, and indeed had scored only 4 points in 7 minutes, both on offensive rebounds. Pozzecco found Basile on a backdoor slash and the crowd started celebrating as Skipper rolled to the 88-78 final score and a 1-1 record in Group A.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002