13 September, 2021
01 January, 2022
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Treviso survive wild Bakken comeback; Bamberg go from +20 to elimination

MIES (Switzerland) - It was a shocking day in the Basketball Champions League 2021-22 Qualifying Rounds, with clubs like Brose Bamberg, Mornar Bar and Peristeri ending their runs in Semi-Finals of their respective tournaments.

Bamberg suffered the biggest of upsets because of the way they lost their matchup with Uniclub Casino - Juventus. The German juggernauts were up by 20 points with two minutes to play in the third quarter, but fell apart completely over the last 12 minutes, allowing the Lithuanians to pick up an 83-79 win in Tallinn, Estonia.

Dominic Lockhart knocked down a triple to make it 65-45 with 2:00 to go in Q3. But Mindaugas Kupsas and Patrick Miller started the comeback by making it a 14-point game before the last stanza. Tomas Lekunas made it a single digit deficit in just 90 seconds of the fourth, and buried another triple in a monumental 11-0 run midway through the last quarter that gave Juventus a 72-70 lead.

Bamberg still managed to open up four-point leads twice before the end of the game, but kept shooting themselves in the foot with missed shots and turnovers down the stretch. Patrick Miller's pullup two put the Lithuanian side up 80-79 with 30 seconds to go, and the Germans did not score the rest of the way, handing Juventus a spot in the Final.

"We played good basketball for 27 minutes, then suddenly stopped and thought it was game over. But it wasn't. Utena are a very experienced team. The moment they realized they still had a chance, they grabbed it and because of the last 13 minutes they deserved to win," Bamberg playcaller Johan Roijakkers said.

Patrick Miller was unstoppable with 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting, Tomas Lekunas scored15 points, while Gintautas Matulis and Jaylin Airington combined for 28 off the bench. Frankie Ferrari's 14-point, 11-assist double-double was not enough for the nine-time German champions.

Uniclub Casino - Juventus are now a win away from the Regular Season, and they are about to face the hosts BC Kalev/Cramo in the Final. The Estonian powerhouse showed no signs of slowing down against Mornar Bar, picking up a 104-89 win over the Montenegrin team.

It all came down to shooting. Kalev knocked down 21-of-39 shots from beyond the arc, and 13-of-24 from inside the arc, giving them a total of 54 percent from the field on 26 assists. Davion Berry had a team-high 21 points, JeQuan Lewis flirted with a triple-double with 13 points, 8 assists and 6 boards for coach Roberts Stelmahers.

Mornar did not play a bad game, Strahinja Micovic and Corey Davis Jr scored 18 each, but it was impossible to make this one interesting after allowing 66 points in the second and third quarter.

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BC Kalev/Cramo are the current champions of Estonia and the winners of the Latvian-Estonian Basketball League, plus the Cup holders in Estonia. Reaching the Regular Season in the Basketball Champions League would be another achievement unlocked, their only previous attempt to do so was back in 2017-18, when they were eliminated in the second Qualifying Round.

Peristeri weren't as successful while hosting a tournament in 2021. They found out first hand how tough U-BT Cluj Napoca are as a team, as the Romanian champions won the Semi-Finals in Greece 84-74.

Elijah Stewart led the way with 17 points, Patrick Richard paired up 15 and 12 in points and assists for a solid double-double, and the Croatia-BIH combo did their part too. Toni Katic had 16 points and 5 assists, Andrija Stipanovic finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds, keeping coach Mihai Silvasan satisfied next to the court.

Katic and Stipanovic will not be facing their ex-club in the Final, because KK Split lost the other Semi-Finals tie in Peristeri. Fribourg Olympic looked like the more experienced team, holding on for a 76-67 win to set up a date with U-BT Cluj Napoca in the Final.

A minor injury kept center Shawn Jones back home in Split, Croatia, and Fribourg head coach Petar Aleksic knew how to take advantage of his team's size and strength in Jones' absence. The Swiss champs opened up a 38-24 edge in paint points, and got to the line 28 times, nine more than Split.

Natan Jurkovitz is enjoying his return to the squad after spending the 2020-21 season with Hapoel Beer Sheva and Geneva. Jurkovitz collected 13 points and 7 rebounds for Fribourg, Arnaud Cotture had 12 points, while Boris Mbala and Quincy Diggs combined for 22. Honorable mention: Kwamain Mitchell with 9 points and 8 assists.

By now we are used to seeing ZZ Leiden play close games, but after winning their matchup with Belfius Mons-Hainaut at the buzzer, they suffered a 69-67 defeat to the hands of perennial Belarus champs Tsmoki-Minsk.

Worthy de Jong won the game for the Dutch champs on Monday, but his potential game-winning three-pointer did not drop on Wednesday, allowing Tsmoki-Minsk and coach Rostislav Vergun to start celebrating a memorable win that puts them within 40 minutes of another Regular Season appearance.

Tsmoki got a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double from Robert Upshaw, with 3 blocks also in for good measure, Angelo Warner had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, and Yauheni Beliankou finished with 13 points. Asbjoern Midtgaard put up 15 points and 14 rebounds for ZZ Leiden.

Tsmoki-Minsk will now face Nutribullet Treviso in the Final of the tournament in Italy. The hosts had their share of drama against the Bakken Bears, almost dropping an eight point lead over the last 80 seconds of the game, but in the end, Nutribullet Treviso won, 92-90.

Henry Sims made it 87-79 with just over a minute to play, but Michel Diouf's three-pointer started one last run for the Bears. Even when they were up by five, Treviso missed a pair of free throws and had another empty possession, which allowed Adama Darboe to cut the gap to two points with another three-pointer.

DeWayne Russell knocked down a couple of free throws to keep Bakken two possessions away in the last 10 seconds, so even an off balance triple by Frank Bartley was only good enough to have the scoreboard showing 90-91 from Bakken's point of view.

There was less than a second remaining on the game clock. With 0.3 to go, Giordano Bortolani had the smart decision to miss the second free throw, which meant Bakken could not advance the ball, which meant Treviso secured the win, which means they are 40 minutes away from a place in the Regular Season.

Henry Sims had a 23-point, 13-rebound double-double with 3 blocks, the youngster Bortolani is playing on a high level again with 16 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Frank Bartley scored 19 for Bakken.

On Thursday, action continues with the Semi-Finals in Sofia, Bulgaria. Finalists from Czech League Opava face the Ukrainian champions BC Prometey, while French squad Le Mans are up against the Russian outfit Parma-Parimatch.