Its first win of the ULEB Cup season did not come easy Tueaday for Caprabo Lleida in Amsterdam, where the Spanish visitors defeated Ricoh Astronauts 76-88 after overtime was needed to settle the heated Group D battle. The hero of the game was forward AJ Bramlett, who scored 21 points and added 8 rebounds for the winners. He shared the scoring lead with Chris McGuthrie of the Astronauts. Caprabo Lleida had also good contribution by guards Jaume Comas and Berni Alvarez, who scored 15 each, and forwards Johnny Rogers and Sergio Ramos, who also scored double digits, adding 11 and 10, respectively. Lleida shot better percentages and took advantage of the second shots allowed by Astronauts with 10 offensive rebounds, at least 6 in the key, closing minutes. Astronauts will regret the missed opporunity but again rallied after a bad first half to almost beat a favored team from a big basketball country. The hosts even had a chance to win at the foul line, but McGuthrie missed a decisive second free throw. Still, McGuthrie led the comeback with 15 of his points in the last 15 minutes of regulation time, while Joe Spinks added 19 and Croatian newcomer Zvonimir Ridl added 16 for the losers. Both teams are now 1-2 in the group standings.
Caprabo Lleida took early leads thanks to forwards Johnny Rogers and Sergio Ramos hitting from the perimeter. Astronauts were surprised about the versatility of the small teams lined up by Lleida's coach, with guard Berni Alvarez driving inside and big men moving well. Astronauts stayed in the game thanks mainly to Spinks, who scored most of his team's first-quarter points. The guests led 16-23 after 10 minutes, but Astronauts had the reaction. Thanks to Spinks and two baskets by McGuthrie, the Astronauts were back with only one point to make up at 23-24. Bramlett now grabbed key offensive boards to push Lleida ahead, and the guests managed the tempo of the game with a variety of contributions en route to a 32-40 halftime lead.
In the second half, Lleida reached its highest lead at 9 points before Astronauts took off again. Despite many offensive errors, the hosts hung on as Spinks and Ridl rang the bell for their team. The Croatian newcomer nailed 14 points in his first 28 minutes, with 6 steals, allowing his team to step out of the difficult situation. His efforts in the third added up to a 20-9 run that gave Astronauts the lead before Bramlett tied it, 52-52, on the 30-minute buzzer. The lead alternated throughout the fourth quarter until a basket by Bramlett seemed to switch the game's destiny to Lleida's side at 66-67. Bramlett missed the additional free throw, and on the other side McGuthrie was fouled. This time, he could only make 1 of 2, but when a shot by Comas of Lleida missed, they went to overtime tied 67-67. Overtime was Lleida's land of conquer, as Astronauts ran out of energy. Lleida opened the overtime with 0-7 run with great baskets by Bramlett. McGuthrie tried to get his team back with a pair of triples, but Caprabo was clearly owner of the game.
Tuesday, October 29, 2002