Ponitka brilliant as Iberostar Tenerife beat Neptunas to clinch first in Group B
KLAIPEDA (Basketball Champions League) - Mateusz Ponitka turned on the style in every way imaginable on Tuesday night to fire Iberostar Tenerife to an 83-67 victory over a dogged and determined Neptunas Klaipeda in Lithuania.
Needing to win to clinch first place in Group B, the 24-year-old Poland international made sure his team did just that with his scoring on drives and from the perimeter, with his passing and with his defense.
He finished with a season-high 24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.
Objetivo cumplido: primeros de grupo ☝🏼 pic.twitter.com/VoWV8zQx8V— Javier Beirán (@jbeiran33) February 6, 2018
Iberostar Tenerife, the defending champions, won for the 12th time in 14 games with their only losses coming against a Ventspils side that failed to clinch a top-four finish and a spot in the Round of 16.
They lost at home to PAOK on Tuesday, so the Greek club leapfrogged Neptunas into third place and dropped the Lithuanian outfit into fourth.
Fotis Katsikaris, who took over Iberostar Tenerife after the start of the season from Nenad Markovic, had to be pleased with the overall effort of his team. Rookie center Mike Tobey continued to be effective both with his low-post play and overall hustle. He finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds.
Tobey did a lot of this at Neptunas
Neptunas, who clawed back a 13-point deficit to 1 late in the second quarter and were threatening to move in front, saw their run die when Ponitka came out of a timeout and buried a 3-pointer. He was 3 of 4 from long range and 8 of 9 from the floor on the night.
The hosts never seriously threatened again.
"I thought we started off strong in the first quarter and then we kind of got a little lackadaisical in the second quarter," Tobey said. "But then I thought we picked it up in the beginning of the second half and were able to finish the game and get a tough win on the road."
In the second quarter, with some substitutions, we lost the rhythm of the game, it was normal that Neptunas had to react and they did react but again, the third quarter, I think we controlled the game from the beginning to the end.
Katsikaris was happy with how the game unfolded.
"It was the last game of the group and playing against a team that had lost only one game at home (January 9) to (MHP) Ludwigsburg," he said.
"We knew the difficulties that we could face. It's a team that can play very aggressive. For us it was most important to get control with the defense, the tempo of the game, because this is a team that can take advantage of the open court and they have the players that can play this kind of game and be very efficient.
"It helped us at the start of the game that we were so aggressive and on offense, we played where we have to attack the weaknesses that we saw.
"In the second quarter, with some substitutions, we lost the rhythm of the game, it was normal that Neptunas had to react and they did react but again, the third quarter, I think we controlled the game from the beginning to the end. I have to congratulate the team. Now we're waiting for the draw to see who we're going to play against in the next round."
Something that bodes well for Neptunas as they look ahead to the Round of 16 is that despite failing to win at home, they fought until the end.
A key development for the home side was the improved play of both Vytautis Sulskis (21 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists) and Jerry Johnson (12 points, 4 assists). Both players showed a zeal that Neptunas need moving forward.