The race to the playoffs in Europe is heating up, while for Jock Landale and Xavier Cooks they are already in the thick of postseason action in the ABA Liga and FIBA Europe Cup.
Trailing 0-1 in the Adriatic League best-of-three games semi-final series against arch rivals Crvena Zvezda, Partizan looked to bounce back in game two in front of a boistrous home crowd. It proved to be a game befitting the stage, with first Partizan and then Crvena Zvezda taking control, albeit with little variation on the scoreboard.
Jock Landale came up with the big play to end the first half with a 7 point lead courtesy of an offensive put-pack to beat the buzzer and have the crowd on their feet. While Partizan took all the momentum into the second half, their opponents did their best to quell the crowd by fighting back with a big 14-22 third term to steal the lead by 1 heading into the final period and set up a thriller.
Landale and Partizan came up big in the final period, to first take back the lead and then withstand a furious late-game challenge. Landale scored 6 of his 10 points down the stretch, and came up with two consecutive offensive responds in the 24 seconds to all but assure his side came away with a 70-67 win and force a deciding game three.
The 6'11 big man also finished with 8 rebounds and 2 steals and 1 blocked shot, and will look to continue his good form in the series decided with the goal of advancing to the final
While Landale is one game away from advancing to the finals, Xavier Cooks and s.Oliver Würzburg advanced to the semi-finals of the FIBA Europe Cup following a convincing 86-70 home win against Bakken.
After a tight first quarter in which the visitors gained a 4 point lead, it was Würzburg who took control of the contest in the second. The German side dominated the next two periods in outscoring Bakken 49-28 to put themselves in the drivers seat. While Bakken tried to mount a final charge,
Würzburg proved far too good to advance to the semi-finals with a 16 point win.
Xavier Cooks was able to compile 8 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in another solid performance and is one step close to tasting postseason success.
In their return to the German Bundesliga, Würzburg were required to work harder than expected against last-placed Science City Jena. Trailing by as many as 11 points in the final term before a late run saw them steal a narrow 78-82 win. Cooks went a perfect 6-6 from the field and 2-2 from the chrity stripe to add 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. With the come-from-behind win, Würzburg hung onto eighth place in the standings.
In what may have been the most thrilling finish of them all, Ben Madgen's Crailsheim Merlins won a thriller on a miraculous buzzer-beating three-ball. After a solid game in which Ben Madgen dropped 20 points, 6 rebound and 3 assists, the Merlins found themselves trailing by 10 points with just 1:48 left in the game. Yet despite a seemingly unsurmountable task, Crailsheim stormed back late before the final possession saw Frank Turner hit the miracle game-winner.
The win has Crailsheim now 2 places clear of the relegation zone, giving them some much-deserved breathing room as the season end nears.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul used a 26-14 third period to ease their way past Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 102-92 in the EuroLeague to consolidate their position in fourth position. Veteran forward Brock Motum came off the bench to add 4 points and 2 rebounds in 11 minutes, as Efes moved two games clear of fifth.
In their return to the Turkish League, Motum was re-inserted into the starting line-up and duly delivered. The 6'10 forward contributed 14 points and 7 rebounds as Efes saw their big 16 point fourth quarter evaporate behind a fast finish by Besiktas. Yet the league's equal leading team held on down the stretch to record a 95-92 win and improve their record to 19-3, tied with Fenerbahce.
Across in Slovenia, Zlatorog Laško remained in playoff contention following a close 81-78 victory against Šentjur. As he has done since joining the team earlier in the year, Matur Maker made is presence felt in the paint to anchor his team and ensure a narrow win. The 6'10 athletic big man was efficient offensively, going 6-7 from the field and 4-5 from the line to collect 16 points with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks in a fine all-round performance.
Despite 10 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks from Mangok Mathiang, third placed Vanoli Cremon found themselves on the wrong end of an 80-97 result against Alma Trieste in the Italian Serie A. Trieste exploded with a 34 point opening term to take an early 11 point lead, extending the margin to 25 by hald time. While Cremona fought back in the second half and finished strongly, the damage had already been done. Cremona holds onto third place despite the loss to the seventh ranked team.
In the French LNB, Nathan Sobey came off the bench to deliver 10 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists as Strasbourg suffered an 86-92 loss to third placed Nanterre. Strasbourg were jumped early, trailing by 10 at the end of the first. While they steadied the ship, they were unable to fight back to take the win. David Andersen played just 5 minutes off the bench to remain scoreless as Strasbourg remained in seventh position.
Nathan Jawai also endured a scoreless outing for Levallois in the same competition, registering just 1 rebound in his 11 minutes on court against Pau-Lacq-Orthez. Levallois managed to overcome the quiet night by the Aussie big man to upset the second ranked side 68-66 despite sitting in eleventh spot.
In the French second division, Chima Moneke continued his great run by delivering 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocked shots in Denain's 94-101 loss to third ranked Nancy. His side sits precariously, just 1 game clear of the relegation zone and with work to do before season end.
While Paris is well clear of the relegation zone in the French Pro B, they are 3 games out of the playoff race following a 71-83 loss to Rouen. Daniel Dillon started and added 9 points in 21 minutes, but it was not enough to avoid the loss to playoff-bound Rouen.
Josh Wilcher continued his standout season with the Plymouth Raiders in the British Basketball League, pouring in a team-best 24 points with 4 rebounds, 10 assists and 2 steals. However despite his big double-double, the Raiders went down to Manchester 90-98.
Legia Warszawa's late season run towards a playoff berth in Poland continued as they accounted for AZS Koszalin 79-69. Forward Keanu Pinder came off the bench to add 9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks before fouling out in just under 14 minutes.
Dan Trist added 10 points and 6 rebounds for Caceres in the Spanish LEB, as his side overcame a 21-9 first quarter deficit to prevail 68-67 in a thrilling contest. Obi Kyei's Força Lleida also enjoyed a win, taking down Castelló 88-82. Kyei added 10 points including 2-3 three-pointers with 3 rebounds in the big win. Kyei's side is well above the relegation zone, while Trist's Caceres are in a dire struggle to avoid it.