Early in the second half of MoraBanc Andorra’s home meeting with Partizan NIS Belgrade on Wednesday night, things looked pretty bleak for the men from the principality.
Andorra had suffered a miserable second quarter, seeing a 16-10 lead turn into a 16-24 deficit with a run of more than 6 minutes without scoring a single point as nine consecutive field goal attempts were missed. And when the second half got underway with Andorra failing to score from the field for more than 2 minutes, Coach Ibon Navarro must have been starting to fear that his team would be unable to find the necessary offensive production to turn the game around.
But then, out of nowhere, came an explosion of spectacular plays, totally changing the mood of the contest and swinging the momentum heavily in Andorra’s favor.
The assault started with a show-stopping play on defense as Amine Noua raced back and rose high to swat a shot from Zach LeDay against the backboard and that moment not only got the fans on their feet but also seemed to serve as inspiration for the Andorra players.
Oriol Pauli produced the first big offensive play by making a superb crossover dribble to give himself an uncontested route to the basket for a two-handed jam, before Codi Miller-McIntyre decided to join the fun with a fierce slam of his own after a steal at mid-court.
The dunk party was only just starting, as Andorra proceeded to produce the game’s two biggest highlight-reel plays – first with Miller-McIntyre sending the cutting Pauli high to the rim for a perfectly executed alley-oop which tied the game at 34-34. Then came a brutal explosion of power as Moussa Diagne received a bounce pass from Clevin Hannah and took off from somewhere in the Pyrenees for an astonishing one-handed slam.
David Jelinek obviously hadn’t read the script as he had the cheek to score two non-dunks, but Victor Arteaga soon restored the previous routine with two more slams before Miller-McIntyre added another full-speed transition slam to bring the third quarter to an end with Andorra leading 48-40, having turned an 8-point deficit into an 8-point lead in 8 minutes.
Andorra’s third-quarter explosion saw them record exactly the same number of points – 24 – that they had managed in the whole of the first half, and that was even more notable for the fact that 14 of those points were highlight-reel dunks all of which could easily fit into the top 10 plays of the week.
Seeing so many spectacular plays in quick succession is a real rarity, and in truth, it was bizarrely out of keeping in a game that was largely marked by both offenses misfiring with no other such moments to get excited about. But it was very much welcomed by the home team, which used the flurry of dunks as a springboard for an important victory over the previously unbeaten visitors.