Akasvayu Girona became the last team to advance to the ULEB Cup semifinals by beating Unics Kazan 75-66 in the last game of the quarterfinals at Palavela in Turin, Italy on Friday night. Akasvayu will keep fighting for ULEB Cup glory and will face Dynamo Moscow in the next round. Meanwhile, Unics Kazan finished its ULEB Cup run this season and missed star center Darjus Lavrinovic, who did not play due to a last-minute back injury. Arriel McDonald and Marc Gasol paced the winners each with 19 points. Branko Cvetkovic had 14 while Ivan Radenovic added 10 for Akasvayu, that will go against his coach last season, Svetislav Pesic, now in Dynamo Moscow. Dusko Savanovic and Sergei Chikalkin each had 12 points for Unics, Tariq Kirksay added 11 while Virgil Stanescu got 10. Chikalkin and Kirksay shined in the first quarter, but a layup by Gasol allowed Akasvayu to get a 25-24 edge after 10 minutes. Akasvayu did not trail in the second quarter, but an outstanding Savanovic helped Unics to tie the game, 36-36, at halftime. A dunk by Victor Keyru gave Unics its last lead of the game, 42-43, but that's when McDonald decided to take over. He had all points in a 7-0 Akasvayu run and soon added a jumper for a 59-50 lead after 30 minutes. Unics did not recover, as Radenovic and Cvetkovic made sure that all Akasvayu fans could celebrate a big win minutes before the final buzzer.
Unics started Dmitry Sokolov started at center in place of Lavrinovic, but he had troubles right away. Gasol stole the first pass to him and drew Sokolov's first two fouls in less than a minute. Gasol made 1 of 2 free throws to start the scoring, while Jerry McCullough came the other way, got fouled and put Unics ahead 1-2 at the line. Erik Daniels of Akasvayu and Kirksay of Unics traded inside baskets before Sokolov got whistled for his third foul and left. Cvetkovic scored in close for Akasvayu, as did Virgil Stanescu for Unics. McDonald took the lead back for Akasvayu at 7-6 on a floating jumper. Cvetkovic tried to widen the advantage with a triple, but Sergei Chikalkin matched him from deep. When McDonald insisted, blasting from the corner for Akasvayu, Chikalkin copied him, too. The tug-of-war continued with Gasol and Kirksay trading baskets before Chikalkin scored again to keep Unics up 14-15. Victor Sada missed both his free throws for Akasvayu, but put back the rebound of his second miss to put his team back in front. Kirksay tied at the foul line, 17-17, then Cvetkovic hit a jumper to keep Akasvayu in front. After a timeout, Kirksay went back inside to tie, Ivan Radenovic answered for Akasvayu and Stanescu forged another tie, 21-21. After Maurice Whitfield hit free throws for Akasvayu, Stanescu tied it putting back one offensive rebound and got the go-ahead free throw after another, but Akasvayu found Gasol inside to finish the first quarter ahead by 25-24.
Unics kept rebounding well at both ends but could not find points early in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Stanescu picked up his third foul, making Unics head coach Aco Petrovic open the floor with Dusko Savanovic and Marko Tusek on court. Both teams went scoreless for almost 2 minutes until Fernando San Emeterio stepped up with a running jumper for Unics. His team then struggled to find points in a four-chance possession after which a layup by Gasol gave Akasvayu a 29-24 lead. Kirksay, now playing point forward, took over with a floating jump hook that Keyru followed with a layup at 29-28. Gasol scored inside but the ever-present Kirksay collected a steal and fed Savanovic for an easy basket. McDonald struck from downtown to restore a 34-30 Akasvayu edge. Unics called timeout to fix its offense and Savanovic sank a five-meter jumper. Gasol made free throws, however, as Unics kept missing second-chance possessions now. Savanovic took over with a wild driving layup to single-handedly bring Unics within 36-34. Once again a red-hot Savanovic hit a jumper off a pick-and-roll with Chikalkin for a 36-36 tie at halftime.
Cvetkovic scored in penetration right after the break while Daniels added an acrobatic layup for a 40-36 Akasvayu lead. Unics opted to attack the basket, too, where it was already rebounding well on offense. Stanescu scored in a second-chance Unics offense but Gasol fed Cvetkovic for a tough reverse layup. McCullough struck from downtown while Keyru dunked it off a midcourt steal as Unics regained the lead at 42-43. Akasvayu struggled to score now until Daniels and Gasol made free throws to provide another lead change, 45-43, midway through this quarter. Chikalkin sank a jumper off a screen but Gasol matched it with a two-handed dunk. McDonald scored off a steal for a four-point Akasvayu lead at 49-45. Tusek fired in a shot from downtown but McDonald followed free throws with a fastbreak layup to keep his team ahead, 53-48. Unics had lost control on offense while McDonald - who else? - sank a three-pointer to cap a personal 7-0 run that made Unics call timeout at 56-48. Kirksay switched to point forward again while Nikita Kurbanov made free throws. McDonald was unstoppable, however, and hit his trademark stop-and-pop jumper. A free throw by Whitfield fixed the score at 59-50 for Akasvayu after three quarters.
Savanovic had a big block on Daniels early in the fourth quarter while a free throw by Stanescu gave his team some hope at 59-51. Radenovic took over with a three-point play, however, enough for Akasvayu to get its first double-digit lead at 62-51. Kirksay scored around the basket but Radenovic shined with a layup in transition to make Unics call timeout at 64-53 with 7 minutes to go. Akasvayu had already entered the foul bonus, however, so Unics tried to go the foul line as often as possible. It was Cvetkovic, however, who did not miss from the foul line to make it a 12-point game, 66-54. Savanovic made free throws and soon added a put-back layup to bring Unics within single digits, 66-58. Akasvayu quickly called timeout and Gasol stepped up with a big basket in the low post. Unics was running out of time and kept trying to attack the basket. McCullough hit more foul shots that Radenovic erased with an easy layup. Unics kept trying but it was already too little, to late, as Akasvayu was already in the ULEB Cup semifinals!
Friday, April 11, 2008