Holon through to Quarter-Finals despite Botevgrad defeat
BOTEVGRAD (Bulgaria) - UNET Holon needed to dip into their first-leg advantage to hold off Balkan Botevgrad in the Round of 16, moving on to the Quarter-Finals despite an 83-82 defeat on the road in Bulgaria on Tuesday evening.
Having scored a dramatic come-from-behind victory at home, the Israeli side beat their Bulgarian opponents by just three points on aggregate (167-164) with an incredible effort from the second unit just enough for the Dan Shamir-coached side to survive.
Turning point: After struggling to put separation between themselves and Balkan throughout the contest, the visitors could only breathe a sigh of relief when LaMarcus Reed stepped out of bounds with 5.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to end a possession that could've brought the tie back level.
Game hero: Holon received some much-needed veteran leadership from Guy Pnini inside the final minute of play, with the 35-year-old marksman cancelling out Pavlin Ivanov's three-pointer (80-76) with a long-range basket of his own on the very next possession to cut the gap to a single point.
Stats don't lie: The second unit carried the visitors to victory, scoring 63 of 82 points for the Israeli side. In comparison, although the Balkan starters had a strong game, Nebojsa Vidic's bench accumulated just 14 points.
Bottom line: After getting off to a victorious start to the Play-Offs, Holon are set to face the winner of the tie between Alba Fehervar and Telekom Baskets Bonn, where the Germans hold a one-point lead before the return fixture in Hungary.
They said: "We advanced to the Quarter-Finals and I am proud of it. I knew it’s not going to be easy. We advanced because we got back in the game in the last six minutes of the home leg. They were in total control of that game, but we somehow made it back and made a buzzer three that gave us a four-point lead. It was very critical today. Today we played a solid game. We had a bad start but, played a solid game afterwards." – UNET Holon head coach Dan Shamir
"This win is very important for our team. It is a step to a goal everyone wants to achieve and to win the FIBA Europe Cup. It was a hard-fought game tonight. We succeed to win [on aggregate] by playing together and with passion. The atmosphere here was great. The audience here is great, they have a good fan base, my hat goes off to BC Balkan. This is a very tough team. They played very well together, they have great chemistry. They wanted it as much as we did but we came with the victory at the end." – UNET Holon forward Darion Atkins
"I want to congrats to all my players, staff and everybody in the club for everything we did in FIBA Europe Cup. I think this is already a huge achievement, what we did so far. Not only the fact that we played in Round of 16, but it's the way we played basketball which I am especially proud of. Big thanks to my players because they made me a better coach in Europe with those game in Europe. Thanks to our crowds." – Balkan BC head coach Nebojsa Vidic
"It was a tough game and a tough team. After the game in Israel, we knew they would come with much more aggressiveness, but I feel we did a good job staying together at the end We got back in the game when we were down early. As a whole, I think we played really rough in all FIBA Europe Cup games." – Balkan BC forward Mikael Hopkins