Tonight 1250 spectators created exactly the atmosphere at Gripe that Srđan Subotić, coach of KK Split had called for and the Yellows thanked them with a single point last-second 81:80 victory.
“This is a key game for us in this part of the season, with the victory we can gain a significant advantage over Krk [currently last in the league but still with a chance to reach 13th position]. The most important thing is our physical fitness after a difficult game against Zadar. Mega is young, twelve days without games. If we respond physically then our chances are great. I hope the stands are full, the support in the match with Zadar was great, I believe it will be the same against Mega.” The Yellows only had 46 hours to re-generate since their Tuesday single-point home defeat against KK Zadar (read about here) but had still brought some confidence to the game with back-to-back wins in ABA League against Mornar (76:67) and a surprising away game win at Borac (59:64).
MEGA Belgrade on the other hand had lost six games in a row in the ABA League since their 79:86 derby victory at FMP Belgrade on January 29th. Since the beginning of the calendar year, they have been pretty much in the table’s no-man’s land with relegation being no concern and the playoffs out of reach. Vladimir Jovanović, coach of Mega Mozart before the game: “Split has very good momentum, they celebrated two victories, against Mornar at home and against Borac away, they definitely raised their form. Since the first match in Belgrade, they changed the team a lot, in addition to Jones, who was absent from the court for a long time, they added Shorter and their entire outside line is very good.” It was quite obvious that if the guests wanted to win the game they had to improve the level of defense compared to their previous six games.
The spectators witnessed an entertaining game right from the start. The guest team’s sharpshooter Simanić opened the game with a three-point shot before a team effort with a three-pointer by Barič, a block by Jones, and a mid-range jumper from Shorter was followed by a beautiful effort for two more points by Jones to give Split the first lead (7:3) of the night.
Both sides were able to count on their accuracy from outside. Belgrade’s Simanić (7 of 8!) and Split’s Perković (4 of 6) kept making their outside shots throughout the entire game. The guests were able to pull away a little by the end of the first half due to Simanić who delivered a perfect first half with 2 for 2 from the field, 1 of 1 from the free-throw line, and an incredible 4 for 4 from behind the three-point line for a total of 17 points in only 10 minutes and 17 seconds on the court.
The game went back and forth in the third quarter. Mega went up by 12 points at the beginning before Split turned it around to finish the quarter 59:55.
What the spectators got to see in the fourth quarter made up for a lot. After none of the teams could pull away decisively, Perković made four successful free throws after an intentional foul on the fast break to give his team an important 71:64 lead.
The guests came back with a great 5 point run to 71:69 before two successful free throws by Shorter after another fast break foul meant 73:69.
Mega Belgrade kept their cool and answered with another successful 3-point shot by Simanić to make it 73:72 and possession for the Yellows with 68 seconds to go.
Ukić missed his three-point attempt but Žganec came up with the offensive rebound and his scoring attempt received a goaltending call to give the home team a 75:72 lead with 40 seconds to play.
At 77:76 another intentional foul by Belgrade’s Metković gave Žganec the chance to decide the game but the inside man only scored 1 of his 2 free throw attempts.
Perković made it better by scoring what seemed to be the decisive 3 point shot of the game for the 79:74 lead but it was Simanić again with another 3 to reopen the race at 79:77 with 7 seconds to play.
Two successful free throws by Shorter to make it 81:77 with 4 seconds to play should have been the end of the game.
Should have, could have, would have, if Split was not stupid enough to foul Jović during his final three-point attempt. The ball went in, 81:80, free-throw Jović to make it into overtime.
As if the excitement was not enough, Jović missed, the guests picked up the offensive rebound with a second to play but luckily for Split the ball went out of control and time ran out to give Split the third ABA league victory in a row and Belgrade a frustrating trip to Zadar after seven straight losses.
Simanić was the top scorer of the game with 30 points followed by his teammate Jović with 22. For KK Split Perković collected 21 points followed by Shorter with 16. Honorable mention also goes to Barič who made 4 of his 5 three-point attempts for a total of 15 points.
Referees: Luka Kardum, Edo Javor, Stefan Ćalić
ABA League Format:
The 14 teams play each other twice during the regular season to establish 6 teams that will play for the title, one team that will drop out of the league directly, and the “lucky 13th” having a chance to stay in the league by winning a best of three series against the runner-up of ABA League 2. The six teams that finish at the top of the league at the end of the regular season play each other in a play-off mode. The top two teams receive a wild card and enter the playoffs in the semi-finals, while the other four teams play each other first (3rd against 6th and 4th against 5th). The reigning champion is Red Star Belgrade who defeated Budućnost in a long 3-2 final series.
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