«Kalev» Tallinn, Estonia vs. «Azovmash» Mariupol, Ukraine
Azovmash defeat Kalev in relegation scrap
In Week 16 of the regular season, Azovmash (Ukraine) defeated Kalev (Estonia) on the road, 77-73. A crucial contest for both clubs, the game went down to the final minutes. Mariupol held up better under the pressure and enjoyed their second win of the season over the Estonians. As a result, Azovmash take over ninth place in Group A from Kalev.
For the Group B outsiders, separated by only one win in the standings, this was an extremely important game. Ninth place guarantees a place in the League next season. From the start, the game was hotly contested. Led by their Americans, Tyshawn Abbott and Gary Wilkinson, the Baltic club played their favorite style. They tried to force the opponent to commit turnovers, then take off on the fast break. Azovmash answered with Tadija Dragicevic, but he wasn’t quite enough. Soon, Frank Elegar contributing, too, standing out in the paint on both ends of the court. Kalev pressured their opponent, securing a seven-point lead after the first quarter, 26-19.
The Estonian club continued to apply pressure in the second ten-minute period. After Wilkinson’s 3-pointer, the home team’s lead reached double digits. Soon, however, the Tallinn grew complacent. The loss of rhythm and reliance on a half-court offense hurt Kalev. Scoring is clearly one of the weakest areas for Alar Varrak’s club as they had enormous difficulty putting points on the board. The Ukrainians felt this shift in the game and gradually began chipping into the lead. Mariupol found an easy, effective way to score – feeding Miroslave Raduljica who got by his defenders in the paint with remarkable ease. By halftime, Kalev’s lead had shrunk to one point, 43-42.
Perfectly well aware of the importance of this game, the coaches made certain changes during the break in order to improve their defense, as well as avoid any unnecessary risk or mistakes. In the third quarter, Kalev managed to go ahead by 3-5 points, but the Ukrainians allowed them no more than that. It was clear that the nerve-wracking relegation tussle would come down to the final minutes.
The final stretch went to Azovmash. The run began with Igor Zaytsev’s three-point play. Soon after, Lynn Greer got going. The American guard scored five points in 10 seconds, which allowed Mariupol to finally tie the game, 67-67. After that, the Ukrainians could not be stopped. The team hadn’t shot the three-ball well all night, but got hot at the right moment. Ronald Murray and Simonas Serapinas’s 3-pointers essentially decided the outcome. Kalev did have one final chance, however. Trailing 76-73 with five seconds to play, a misunderstanding between Mac Leod and Armands Skele led to a fatal turnover… The win allows Azovmash to catch Tallinn in the standings and gain the tie-breaker should they end the season with identical records (Mariupol won at home, as well).
Star of the Game
Igor Zaytsev. The center took center stage at the most opportune time: The big man scored eight of his 11 points in the final quarter. As noted earlier, Zaytsev’s three-point play brought the Ukrainian team back in the game (they hadn’t scored for four and half minutes prior to that). Igor’s seven rebounds also had a big impact on Azovmash’s win.
Stat of the Game
5 – five Azovmash players scored ten or more points in this important game. Raduljica and Dragicevic carried the team in the first half. Zaytsev, Serapinas and Murray excelled after the break. Mariupol shared the load brilliantly, as each player made an impact at the necessary moment.
Azovmash head coach Sergiy Zavalin:
- This was a very difficult game. The battle continued until the end of the game, when both teams had a chance to win. I think that our aggressive defense was the key factor in our win.
Kalev head coach Alar Varrak:
- We controlled the game for 37 minutes, then lost it all in one moment. We should have played better at the end. This is a very difficult loss emotionally for us.
Kalev: Frank Elegar – 16 points, six rebounds; Gary Wilkinson – 12 points, five rebound; Tyshawn Abbott – 10 points, Keith Mac Leod – 10 points.
Azovmash: Miroslav Raduljica – 14 points, five rebounds; Tadija Dragicevic – 13 points, 10 rebounds; Lynn Greer – 12 points, eight assists; Igor Zaytsev – 11 points, seven rebounds.