ANDhe Bitci Baskonia closed a difficult week, which began with defeats against Breogán in Lugo and in Vitoria against Bayern, with a hard-fought 80-69 victory against Hereda San Pablo Burgos 80-69. The Vitorians, although they do not depend on each other themselves, thus keeping alive their chances of qualifying for the Copa del Rey after closing the balance of the first round with a 9-8. The Burgos, who started well and never lost face in the game, ended up giving in due to their poor shooting percentages and declining performance under the basket. Costello, with 21 points, 10 rebounds and a PIR of 29 (his highest this season) dominated the paint and was well accompanied by Granger, Baldwin and Fontecchio. On the visiting side, Renfroe, with 17 points, and Nnoko, with 12 and 8 rebounds in his debut with his new team, were the best.
- 80 – Bitci Baskonia (20+19+17+21): Baldwin (11), Granger (17), Giedraitis (4), Sedekerskis (2) and Enoch (8) -first five-, Lamar Peters (7), Fontecchio (10) and Costello (21).
- 69 – Inherits San Pablo Burgos (23+11+18+14): Renfroe (17), Benite (9), Díez (11), Eddie (12) and Nnoko (12) -initial five- Nikolic (3), Kravic (-), Queeley (-), Salash (-), Kullamaee (-), Rabaseda (3) and Marc García (2).
Burgos came out with one more gear in the gearbox, disarming the locals and causing Spahija to time out after just 90 seconds. With Renfroe highly inspired and Nnoko punishing his former team-mates in the paint, the visitors went ahead 6-14 after 4 minutes. Although the Baskonia players tried to tighten their defense a bit more, two consecutive triples by Díez allowed the Burgos players to double their rival (10-20, min.7). The Basque reaction did not take long to arrive once Renfroe had to rest, a circumstance that added to the fact that Baskonia began to close the rebound and circulate the ball with speed, reduced the disadvantage to just 3 points, 20-23, at the end of the first room.
Lamar Peters came out on the court fired up after the break, scoring a three-pointer, a penetrating basket and an assist to Costello that put the Catalans back in control (26-23, min.12). Burgos broke a three-minute period without scoring with a three-pointer from Eddie to rejoin the game, starting a succession of draws in the light until late in the second quarter. Benite put Paco Olmos’ men ahead with two consecutive baskets as soon as he stepped on the floor, although a hurried triple by Granger, a basket by Baldwin and 2 free throws by the latter after a gift from Nnoko helped the team from Alava to reach the break ahead, 39-34.
Both squads came out of the changing rooms more successful in defense than in attack. Renfroe opened fire with a left hook, although the American found no immediate help from his teammates. Thus, a triple by Baldwin and a mate by Enoch made it 44-36 for the locals. Nnoko came to the rescue of his team with 6 consecutive points, taking advantage of his physical superiority over Enoch, so that the game got tighter again (44-42, min.26). The comeback did not come to an end, however, with the Vitorians being the ones who made the most of the rotations. Costello and Fontecchio were the ones who provided the solutions in Baskonia, while Díez contributed 5 consecutive points to close the third period with a 56-52 score for the locals.
Fontecchio and Costello continued to punish Olmos’ men at the start of the final stretch. A three-pointer by the former Gran Canaria player gave Spahija’s men a maximum of 8 points with just over six minutes to go (63-55), although a series of consecutive turnovers allowed the visitors to keep an eye on their rival. Olmos decided to bet on gunpowder in attack by resorting to Eddie, Kravic, Benite -with 4 fouls-, Renfroe and Díez, but the points he achieved on one side of the court were sacrificed on the other. A partial 7-0 in just 2 minutes placed the difference between the two teams in double figures (70-60, min. 38) and, although the free throws momentarily extended Burgos’s options, a Granger layup left the match seen for judgment entering at the last minute.