Herbalife Gran Canaria faced a do-or-die road game against MoraBanc Andorra on Wednesday night. Having lost its previous three games in the 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16 - two of them by just 3 points or less points, Gran Canaria would have been eliminated with another defeat, a tough punishment for a team that finishes atop Group D in the regular season with an 8-2 record.
The precedents were not promising for Gran Canaria, as it has lost its previous two games against Andorra so far this season. Andorra won 62-79 in the Spanish League in November and took their EuroCup game last week 63-66. But, this time, Gran Canaria didn’t fail and earned a double prize; a 74-79 victory and the valuable head-to-head tiebreaker against its opponent.
“I want to congratulate our guys because they played excellent. We had a great rhythm all game long," Gran Canaria’s head coach Porfirio Fisac said after the game. "They still have more wins than us, but now we must keep working in being ourselves and think about our next game, looking forward to another win. That’s the only thing we can think of right now."
One of the key factors that allowed Gran Canaria to take the win and keep breathing was an "old friend" of MoraBanc Andorra: John Shurna. The American forward had played the previous two seasons there and this was his first visit to his former home in European competition since he left.
Shurna looked comfortable all game long, playing 36:28 to become game top-scorer with career-high 21 points in addition to 7 rebounds. He was the first one to score after the tip-off and he did it in style; Shurna opened fire with a layup and a three-pointer in less than 10 seconds, a sign of what was coming.
He finished the first quarter with 10 points, helping his team build a 14-19 lead. Right after the halftime break, he contributed 6 more points and did a great job in rebounding pushing Gran Canaria to a 43-59 edge, which seemed to be definitive.
"The [second half] was very similar to the first half. We started out strong, but then we had some mental absences. They are a great team and started making shots," Shurna said when asked about Andorra’s fourth-quarter rally, when Tomasz Gielo and Clevin Hannah combined for 7 three-pointers that erased a 17-point margin in a blink of an eye, making it a one-possession game with less than 2 minutes remaining.
Shurna didn’t hide and did not panic, either, when the storm hit. He answered with 5 more points to keep his team calm when things looked their worst, thus preventing Andorra from completing the comeback.
"It went down to the wire, but fortunately, we came up with the win. This is a huge win, obviously because we are still alive," he summed up.
The future looks a little bit brighter now for Gran Canaria, as the tiebreaker against Andorra gives it more opportunities in the race for a quarterfinal spot: "Now we have an away game against Mornar so we need to get some rest and keep going," he concluded.