Gran Canaria sweeps pesky Metropolitans
Herbalife Gran Canaria has reached the 7DAYS EuroCup Semifinals for the third time in club history after winning a hard-fought 66-64 decision over visiting Boulougne Metropolitans 92 on Friday to sweep their quarterfinal series 2-0. The victory only became final when the last possession by Metropolitans ended in a turnover, letting Gran Canaria breathe easy and plan for the next phase. A.J. Slaughter was the big gun for the winners and their only double-digit scorer with 16 points. Matt Costello followed with 9 points, a team-high 6 rebounds and 2 blocks, while Andrew Albicy had 7 points and 5 assists. Anthony Brown drilled a game-high 19 points for Metropolitans, while Vitalis Chikoko added 16 and Tomer Ginat 11. Metropolitans led for most of the first 25 minutes, but once Gran Canaria made a break was unable to come back fully to challenge the hosts until that last possession, which ended without a shot.
Big men Chikoko and Ginat gave Metropolitans a 0-4 start but Oliver Stevic soon had Gran Canaria in an 8-8 tie. Chikoko, Anthony Brown and Lahaou Konate led the visitors’ response as they took off on a 2-9 run to lead 10-17. Khalifa Diop dunked twice and added a hook shot to get the hosts within 15-21 after 10 minutes. Costello had a layup and an alley-oop dunk around Archie Goodwin's jumper to make it 19-23 early in the second quarter. Chikoko and Albicy exchanged layups before Slaughter hit Gran Canaria's first triple to make it 24-27. His next one got the hosts closer and his floater gave them their first lead, 29-28, a couple of minutes before halftime. Anthony Brown responded with 2 baskets to which David Michineau added a lane jumper as Metropolitans restored a 31-34 advantage at the break.
Tomas Dimsa struck from deep to tie it up right out of the break but Ginat answered him in kind. Dimsa and Chikoko traded baskets before Michineau's drive made it 36-41. Shurna hit a much-needed triple for Gran Canaria before Aleksander Balcerowski blocked at one end and scored twice at the other to give the hosts their biggest lead yet, 44-41. Goodwin calmed the visitors with a step-back lane jumper but Javier Beiran beat the shot-clock with a wild triple and Balcerowski sank free throws before Costello's basket left a 51-45 advantage after 30 minutes. Costello and Beiran lifted the lead to a 58-51 edge early in the final quarter. Chikoko and Ginat kept the guests within touching distance at 60-57 with less than 4 minutes left, but Gran Canaria's defense at the rim prevented the visitors from getting a shot at the lead. Slaughter's layup made it 62-57 with 2 minutes left. Goodwin and Anthony Brown, from deep, scored in the next 60 seconds to make it 64-62, which is when Slaughter isolated and hit a step-back two-pointer to make it a two-possession game with 35 seconds left. Brown answered with a two-pointer 5 seconds later. After Gran Canaria missed at the other end, Metropolitans had 6 seconds but Goodwin had the ball tipped away, which didn't allow for a final shot and pushed the hosts to the semifinals!
Gran Canaria has now reached the semifinals for the third time in its 13 EuroCup seasons. The islanders were the EuroCup runners-up in 2015 after beating Cedevita Zagreb, Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir and UNICS Kazan in consecutive two-game, aggregate-score playoffs, but lost to Khimki Moscow Region in that season's final. The following season, Gran Canaria reached the semifinals by beating Stelmet Zielona Gora of Poland in the same format, but got no further. Gran Canaria played two best-of-three quarterfinals, in 2017 and 2018, but was swept both times.
In such a low-scoring, defensive-minded game, every basket counted and all of Slaughter's 16 points were golden, but none more than his step-back jumper with 35 seconds left, which proved to be the final difference on the scoreboard.
It was 36-41 in favor of Metropolitans midway through the second half when Aleksander Balcerowski entered to lead a 12-2 Gran Canaria run with 6 points and block, giving the hosts a lead they would not relinquish, though pressed mightily, the rest of the way.
Gran Canaria point guard Andrew Albicy took over ninth place exclusively on the EuroCup list for career assist by dishing 5 in Game 2 on Friday. He now has 329 for his five-season EuroCup career, 2 away from eight-place Marko Popovic. His teammate Slaughter now shares 13th in three-pointers made all-time with 142, tied with Julius Jenkins.
Metropolitans ends its season with an 11-7 record, its best in three EuroCup participations. Gran Canaria advances to play Buducnost VOLI Podgorica or AS Monaco, once their quarterfinal series has ended, in the semifinals, which are scheduled to start on April 6.
Friday, March 26, 2021