Srđan Subotić, coach of Split had again called for help from the bleachers after it had worked well last time: “This rhythm continues every other day. FMP is an athletic team, and extremely energetic. FMP is playing a great season, they come motivated and full of desire to win. We play at home, the audience gives us extra energy. Thank you to the fans who follow us game after game. Gripe is getting fuller, a great atmosphere has been created and we will do our best to use it.”
Guest coach Nenad Stefanović knew what awaited him and called his team to stay attentive: “The Split team showed us in the first match in Zeleznik, especially in the first half, how dangerous it can be and how potent it is in the attack. They work very well offensively, with the arrival of Shorter they gained an extra dimension in the attack, and with the return of Jones stability and strength in the racket. They are a team that is very strong and difficult, especially at home. In addition to the victories they achieved, they were close to surprising the big favorites several times. We prepared as seriously as possible.”
The Yellows went into the game with a three victory streak in the ABA League and with the aim to secure 13th place which means a shot at relegation against the runner-up of ABA League 2. They possibly could have even reached for the final straw that would give them rank 12 if they won all remaining games and if the other results went their way. FMP on the other side still had the chance to qualify for the playoffs early with a win tonight.
For almost the entire game it wasn’t clear which team would come closer to their goal. What neither side seemed to be expecting was how close this game would be and that only extra time would produce a winner.
The first quarter went to Belgrade (18:20) who were usually upfront in the first half but Split was always close to follow. With their last attack of the first half, the Yellows took their first lead of the game at 39:38. FMP Belgrade then closed that gap again in the third quarter which meant 52:52 before the fourth quarter.
The game continued to be extremely close but a block by Perković, followed by points and great efforts by him and Shorter not only lead to a 61:58 with 6:24 to play but also brought the crowd off their seats.
Less than a minute later everybody held their breath when Shannon Shorter had to be taken out of the game as he appeared to be injured. Luckily he was able to return to the game after brief treatment. The home team needed their leader as Belgrade was able to tie the game again.
Kovačević scored a three-point shot with 1 minute 42 seconds left to make it 72:69, but Belgrade answered with a fast break, a good defense, and a three-pointer by Stepanović to turn the game around at 72:74 with 25 seconds to play.
Split’s inside man Žganec kept his cool and made both of his free throws to tie the game again at 74:74 and 19 seconds on the clock. Subotić called his team to defend instead of going for a quick foul and the team followed his instructions well. Belgrade’s point-guard Bryce Jones missed his layup, which meant overtime.
The guests had a better start into the additional five minutes and quickly established a five-point lead. Forward Tasić even succeeded in increasing the lead to 80:86 with a 3 point shot and only 88 seconds left to play.
Perković’s three points to reach 83:86 did not make a difference and the home side was not at the happy end of the week. Belgrade’s Bryce Jones scored a total of 23 points to become the top scorer of the night. Shannon Shorter scored one less but also grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double while he carried his team during most of the game.
Referees: Matej Boltauzer, Milan Nedović, Matej Špendl
ABA League Format:
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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