Okobo's heroics in Hungary send Pau-Lacq-Orthez to Round of 16
SZEKESFEHERVAR (FIBA Europe Cup) - Pau-Lacq-Orthez came out the victors in a battle of will and determination against Alba Fehervar, clinching the top spot in Group O with an 81-78 victory on the road at the Alba Regia Sportcsaznok on Tuesday evening.
Turning Point: Having picked up his first technical foul early in the fourth quarter, D.J. Cooper, who had collected 15 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists, was ejected from the game after earning his second one with 3:57 left on the clock with Pau-Lacq-Orthez up 69-68. In spite of jumping out in front momentarily, Alba couldn't hold on to the lead, as Elan Bearnais rallied around youngster Elie Okobo, who carried the team on his back in the closing stages of the game.
Game Hero: It was none other than 19-year-old youngster Okobo who stepped up for coach Eric Barthecky after the ejection of starting point guard Cooper. The French prospect collected 8 of his total 10 points in the fourth quarter, draining the game-winning three-pointer from the top of the arc with just 9 seconds on the clock to give Pau-Lacq-Orthez an 81-78 victory.
Stats Don't Lie: Although the hosts enjoyed slightly more of the lead throughout the game, neither of the teams led by more than 7 points. The close nature of the game was exemplified by the lead changing hands 20 times and the score being tied on 12 occasions.
Bottom Line: The French club became only the second FIBA Europe Cup side to book a spot in the Play-Offs, joining their countrymen Elan Chalon and Basketball Champions League side Proximus Spirou in the list of teams already qualified to the Round of 16. Meanwhile, Alba Fehervar now hold only theoretical chances of advancing, as their point differential of -1 will not be sufficient to contend for one of two available tickets to the best-ranked second-placed teams.
What They Said: "It was a difficult game, we started very poorly. They missed their last chance to score, while we made our last try. We are going to the next round and I'm very happy about it." - Elie Okobo, Pau-Lacq-Orthez.