German club crashes Euroleague top-16 party
German upstarts Brose Baskets Bamberg reached Euroleague basketball's top 16 for the first time since 2006 after a dramatic 92-90 overtime win against 1992 champions Partizan Belgrade that knocked out the Serbians.
Fenerbahce Istanbul and Spaniards Caja Laboral Vitoria also won their final games in the preliminary group stage to avoid embarrassing early exits for their expensive squads.
The trio joined 13 other teams who had earlier booked their berths in the second group stage of Europe's premier club competition featuring two pools of eight, also to be played on a home and away round-robin basis, starting on December 27.
Roared on by passionate home fans, Bamberg had the upper hand from start to finish but nearly threw the game away after committing a foul in the opposition half in the last few seconds of a captivating contest.
They were let off the hook after Partizan shooting guard Dragan Milosavljevic missed two of three free throws and then also hurled his own rebound woefully wide at the buzzer.
"It's a pretty huge win and a huge accomplishment for the club and the city," Bamberg's Slovenian forward Bostjan Nachbar, the game's top scorer with 23 points, told the official website (www.euroleague.net).
Coach Chris Fleming said: "It would have been tough to walk into the locker room and talk to those guys the next day if we had lost because we had a lot of chances to put them away but they kept coming back".
Fenerbahce won their own dogfight against Mapooro Cantu 77-69 and gained sweet revenge for an 82-58 drubbing in the reverse fixture to advance with five wins and as many defeats, edging the Italians and Slovenians Olimpija Ljubljana who had 3-7 records.
The Turkish side trailed 22-18 after the opening period but a strong second quarter, which they won 25-16, traced the path to victory as they held on in the Ulker Sports Arena.
Playmaker Lester Bo McCalebb led the way with 19 points for Fenerbahce followed by Omer Onan and Oguz Savas who chipped in with 12 each, the latter also collecting four rebounds.
"It was like a final for us and we used the advantage we built in the first half to win the game and advance from a very tough group," said Italian coach Simone Pianigiani.
Caja Laboral looked out for the count after six defeats in the opening seven games but a late surge, capped by Friday's 97-70 rout of newcomers Cedevita Zagreb, sent them through with a 4-6 record ahead of former double winners Emporio Armani Milan.
Serbia forward Nemanja Bjelica produced an outstanding performance for Caja with 22 points, hitting nine of his 10 shots from the field and also racking up three assists and as many rebounds.
Milan crashed out with a third successive defeat after going down 82-81 at holders Olympiakos Piraeus.
Last season's runners-up CSKA Moscow enjoyed a 78-75 win at 2010 champions Barcelona and Montepaschi Siena, who also reached the top 16 with games to spare, squandered a 28-point lead in a 95-88 home defeat by eliminated Polish side Asseco Prokom Gdynia.