By Stefan Djordjevic / email@example.com
Zenit Saint Petersburg was firing from all cylinders in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Round 30 clash against TD Systems Baskonia but the Spaniards answered with an unbelievable comeback in crunch time to grab a 79-75 road win.
Zenit had a 72-58 lead with less than five minutes remaining, however, Baskonia didn’t give up hope and went on a 19-0 run to take over the lead (77-72) in the final minute which decided the outcome.
Achille Polonara led the team effort and Luca Vildoza was the one to bank in the crucial three-pointer which gave Baskonia the lead.
Although Zenit had impressive shooting percentages and nailed a total of 15 threes compared to Baskonia’s eight, they just fell short in the most important period and got completely outplayed on both ends.
“First of all, tonight was the hardest loss that we had in the whole season. It was one game that almost all the game we played excellent: defense, offense, we controlled all the situations during the game. We played good basketball defensively and offensively for almost 35-36 minutes. And suddenly, we lost control of the game,” Zenit coach Xavi Pascual said. “We made stupid turnovers on offense. We missed under the basket and missed open shots. On defense, we gave them two three-point plays and an open three-pointer. It was like hypnosis in the last part of the game.”
Alec Peters scored 17 followed by Vildoza with 15 and Rokas Giedraitis with 12 while Polonara added nine points. On the opposing side, Mateusz Ponitka scored 15 points in addition to KC Rivers’ 14 and Billy Baron’s 12 points.
This was almost a do-or-die game for Baskonia which improved to 16-14 in the chase for a playoff spot, placing just behind the eight-placed Zenit squad with a 16-13 record.
Coach Dusko Ivanovic pointed to confidence and defense as the key factors in the win: “We needed to play with confidence. The last 10 minutes, we played with confidence, with our small guys. We switched on defense, and on offense also we played with more aggressiveness. This is how we must play for 40 minutes, but we played only 10 minutes that way. And I think the stats between steals and turnovers was very important. We changed everything on defense in the fourth quarter and this became a big problem for Zenit.”
Photo Credit: Turkish Airlines EuroLeague