Donar Groningen sink Mornar at MartiniPlaza; Reyer Venezia and Sidigas Avellino keep Italian flag flying
GRONINGEN (FIBA Europe Cup) - There was plenty to celebrate at the MartiniPlaza for Donar Groningen, as the Dutch champions erased a minor first-leg deficit against Mornar Bar to continue their historic campaign in the FIBA Europe Cup.
A full house of 4,350 cheered on Erik Braal's side to an emphatic 101-74 victory that was more than enough to overturn a six-point defeat on the road in Montenegro a week ago.
After being a shell of himself in Bar, Brandyn Curry made sure to bounce back with a big game, leading the hosts with a team-high 19 points and 8 assists, while big men Drago Pasalic and Evan Bruinsma added 18 points apiece.
"This was a very special game to play. Winning was a very special moment. This is what we work for. This is a special game for sure and history for Donar," the team's leading scorer Curry spoke in the press conference.
His coach, Erik Braal, admitted that a historic European run will be an extra challenge to the team but it is one he certainly looks forward to.
"It will be a very busy period for us in the coming weeks. We really need to take care of ourselves to stay fresh and healthy. But I'm really happy that we made it to the Semi-Finals," he smiled.
Derek Needham and Nemanja Vranjes put up big numbers for Mornar, collecting 24 and 23 points, respectively. Brandis Raley-Ross scored an additional 11, but the visitors failed to put up a fight having fallen behind early.
The win continued a successful stretch of play for Donar, who claimed the Dutch Basketball Cup just a couple of days previously. They will now face the Italian championship title holders, Umana Reyer Venezia in the Semi-Finals.
The team from Venice advanced to the next round of the Play-Offs after holding their ground against Nizhny Novgorod. Having won the first game by double figures, the Italians came out on top by six points on aggregate despite a 94-90 defeat in the return fixture in Russia.
Not even one of the best individual performances in the FIBA Europe Cup of all time, a 38-point and 15-rebound double-double by big man Stevan Jelovac, could get Nizhny Novgorod over the edge with Reyer Venezia standing firm.
The 38 points by Jelovac was a competition season record, just one shy of matching the all-time best mark, still held by Spencer Butterfield and John Roberson.
For Venezia, MarQuez Haynes orchestrated the proceedings with a team-high 21 points, Andrea De Nicolao added 17 points and 4 assists, while Italy international Paul Biligha chipped in with 16 points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from the free-throw stripe.
Meanwhile, Sidigas Scandone Avellino, another Italian team, handled their business against Juventus Utena with ease at home in the last Quarter-Final pair, inscribing an 85-68 win that broke the stalemate after the first leg in Lithuania ended in a draw. They will now take on Bakken Bears from Denmark.
The home side ran away to a 27-point halftime lead after outscoring the visitors from the Baltics 31-8 in the second period of the game. Paced by some excellent long-range shooting from Lorenzo D'Ercole, who knocked down five triples for a team-high 17 points, the hosts never looked back.
Jason Rich had 14 points, while Dez Wells was the only other player in double figures with 10 points next to his name in the boxscore.
Maksym Korniienko was the game's leading scorer and rebounder with 18 points and 12 rebounds in a losing effort, with center Mindaugas Kupsas adding 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals.