12february

VEF Shocks Minsk In Wild Finish

VEF stunned Tsmoki-Minsk on the road, 75-74. Trailing by 11 with less than three minutes to play, Riga stormed back for victory, capped by Francisco Cruz's go-ahead field goal with 1.4 seconds to play. Tsmoki had a chance to respond, but Garrett Stutz's turnaround jumper fell short, giving VEF the win.

Intro
Tsmoki had won one of its last five games, while VEF's losing streak hit five after a heartbreaking defeat in Volgograd last weekend. Both teams were looking for redemption on Friday night in Minsk.

Riga gave up an 8-2 run to start the game, but quickly battled back, leading by as much as six late in the 1st quarter.

Knotted at 20-20 to end the opening period, VEF and Tsmoki kept the score close in the 2nd quarter. Minsk forward Ivan Maras tied the game at the free-throw line, 39-39, with 35 seconds to play in the period, before VEF closed out the half on a 5-0 run, including Aliaksandr Kudrautsau's steal and basket at the buzzer (44-39).

45 seconds into the 3rd quarter, Anthony Hilliard knocked down a free throw for Tsmoki, making it a six-point game. But the home team would not score again for more than eight minutes, giving up a 16-0 run. Kudrautsau hit Minsk's first field goal of the second half with 1:03 to play in the 3rd quarter. At the end of three periods, VEF led, 55-51.

The momentum swung back to Tsmoki in the 4th quarter. Led by Garrett Stutz, Minsk put together a 14-4 run to seize a six-point lead. The home team continued to add to its advantage, going up by 11 with under three minutes to play.

Turning Point
Down double digits with little time left on the clock, Mareks Mejeris jumpstarted VEF's comeback with a '3'. After Francisco Cruz and Janis Berzins cut the deficit to four, Mejeris converted a three-point play with 30 seconds to go. Tsmoki had a chance to add to its lead, but Justin Gray couldn't connect.

With eight seconds on the clock, Cruz delivered. The VEF guard beat his man and drove to the basket, knocking down a tough contested shot to give the visitors a one-point lead with 1.4 seconds to play!

Tsmoki's Garrett Stutz had a chance to win at the buzzer, but his shot fell short. VEF escapes on the road!

Star Player
Francisco Cruz. The Mexican guard led his team with 21 points and six assists and hit the game-winning shot in the final seconds.

Stat of the Game
15 - number of lead changes.

Quotes
Tsmoki-Minsk head coach Igor Grishchuk:
- Congratulations to VEF. Our opponent demonstrated its toughness and didn't give up until the final horn. Unfortunately, we didn't have the same resolve today. It's an upsetting loss. But we have to learn from it, move forward and get stronger.

VEF head coach Janis Gailitis:
- This was a very tough game, in which we were ultimately a little luckier. Nonetheless, I think it's a fair outcome. Prior to this game, we had lost several times in the final minutes. I'm grateful to my guys for their resilience. Even when we trailed by 10, they didn't fall apart and managed to turn things around. Our final play was drawn up for Cruz, since he has a lot of experience in these types of end-game situations.

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