Zenit Outlasts Avtodor

Zenit St. Petersburg defeated Avtodor Saratov at home, 95-91, in Game 1 of the playoff quarterfinals. Leading by 20 points in the first half, Zenit survived a furious second-half comeback from the visitors to squeak out the win.

Expectations were high for the series entering Game 1 in St. Petersburg. Both teams preach up-tempo, offense-minded basketball and entered the postseason with big-time momentum.

Zenit came out firing, led by top scorer Ryan Toolson. The home team picked up an early lead, and though Avtodor briefly cut into the deficit, St. Petersburg pushed it to +20 late in the first half (53-33).

Paul Stoll and Jeremy Chappell helped Avtodor regain a glimmer of hope in the 3rd quarter, opening the second half on a 10-0 run, forcing Vasily Karasev to call timeout. The visitors did not relent on defense, outscoring the home team 34-12 during the middle part of the game to go ahead 67-65 at the beginning of the 4th quarter.

Turning Point
The final period was extremely competitive. With 15 seconds remaining, Zenit led by two points, 93-91. With only four seconds remaining on the shot clock, Toolson showed why he's a candidate for League MVP, knocking down a tough fadeaway jumper to make it a four-point game!

The visitors failed to score in the final seconds, giving Zenit the victory.

Star Player
Ryan Toolson. The American powered Zenit's offense all night long, recording 26 points, four rebounds, five assists and a block. His final basket was huge, shattering Avtodor's hopes of stealing Game 1 on the road.

Stat of the Game
7 - Paul Stoll forced seven turnovers, setting a new league playoff record, established only two days earlier by Nando De Colo (6).

Zenit head coach Vasily Karasev:
- We won the first game, which is the most important thing. It's obvious that we could have done a better job of finishing the game after the 1st quarter. We tried use a bigger rotation, which worked. We hope that will help in the future. Our opponent's leaders played 35 minutes each, whereas no one besides Toolson played more than 30 minutes on our team. At halftime, I said that we couldn't relax. During the first half, we executed on defense, but simply got sloppy in the second half. The most important thing is that we won.

Avtodor head coach Vladimir Antsiferov:
- It was a good game, especially in the second half. Unfortunately, we made unnecessary mistakes in the first half, especially turnovers. After halftime, we caught our breath, made a comeback and took the lead. If we hadn't lost so many rebounds, the game would have been ours. We're stronger.