Of the four playoff-game series in this year’s Euro-league Basketball, three ended with a 3-0 sweep while it took all 5 games, before the fourth contender could be known. Inscribing their name in Turkish Airlines Euro-league basketball history, Russia’s Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar leapfrogged into the Final Four to be held at Berlin in a little over 15 days’ time. After they were denied by Juan Carlos Navarro at regulation-time buzzer at Palau Blaugrana, Lokomotiv ensured that they hold fort at home on Tuesday. If Anthony Randolph was their hero in the fourth game, it was Chris Singleton in the decider. Having inflicted an 81-67 defeat on FC Barcelona Lassa at Krasnodar, Lokomotiv also ensured that one of the finalists in this year’s title game will be a Russian Club. Lokomotiv play against CSKA Moscow in the semifinal on May 13 and the result will send one Russian club into the final. In Tuesday’s do-or-die game for both teams, Lokomotiv held an upper hand until halftime, before a huge third quarter surge, in which the visitors led 62-58 at the commencement of fourth quarter. However, an amazing Chris Singleton led Lokomotiv with back-to-back threes in a superb 14-0 run that left Barcelona cold. The Spanish club could merely add 5 more points to their third quarter tally and succumbed to Singleton’s super-human efforts.
Playing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, Lokomotiv began with last game’s hero Randolph notching up the initial lead with a three-pointer. Though Stratos Perperoglou opened the scoring for the visitors, Malcolm Delaney, Evgeny Voronov and Ryan Brokehoff made it 10-2 for Lokomotiv. Though Barcelona helped themselves to some points from Ante Tomic and Perperoglou, they couldn’t stop the hosts from launching fresh offensive. With Randolph scoring from a jumper and Broekhoff and Satoransky firing threes, Lokomotiv led 17-10 after 5 minutes. After a broadcast timeout, Barcelona’s Justin Doellman and Perperoglou reduced the lead but Voronov scored from a layup and his triple made it 22-16 with 2 minutes left. Both coaches made substitutions at this point but Lokomotiv still looked a superior side as the first quarter ended at 26-21.
Barcelona started the second quarter with free throws from Joey Dorsey and Alex Abrines scoring from a bounced-in floater. Then came Brad Oleson’s three and a 9-0 run for Barcelona took them ahead 28-26. However, after Matt Janning evened the score, Sergey Bykov and Chris Singleton restored the lead for Lokomotiv lead. Then it was the turn of Lokomotiv to begin a 9-0 run from Dontaye Draper’s free throws and Delaney’s jumper that extended their lead to 35-28. Though Barcelona scored in spurts, Delaney made it a double-digit lead for Lokomotiv with a three from the corner. It was a huge tussle now with Barcelona fighting back as Navaro produced free throws and Satoransky stealing the ball for a slam. Lokomotiv were equal to the task as Broekhoff also scored from a slam and Singleton collected a rebound and scored, when Delaney missed. The second quarter belonged to Delaney, who ended it by a three-pointer for a 50-39 halftime score.
In a fantastic turnaround, Navarro, Tomic and Satoransky combined to score 9 points in a row and reduced Lokomotiv’s lead to 50-48. For the first 3½ minutes in third quarter, Lokomotiv couldn’t score. After Barcelona equaled the score, Randolph made Lokomotiv go ahead yet again. The field activity was furious with Broekhoff and Perperoglou trading threes before Navarro fed Tomic for a slam for 57-57 on the score-sheet. Free throws from Navarro took his team past Lokomotiv and a triple from Perperoglou gave Barcelona a 62-58 advantage with just the last quarter remaining.
The fourth quarter began with Chris Singleton splitting free throws but Barcelona still led from Abrines’ step-back jumper. A three-pointer from Singleton brought his team to within two points. Then Singleton scored another three and Lokomotiv went up. After Barcelona’s Doellman missed twice, the scoring came to be confined to Singleton. He converted a reverse layup extracted a point from opponent’s foul and scored from another layup. Singleton didn’t stop until he had scored 11 consecutive points and for 5 minutes Barcelona couldn’t find a single point. Singleton was supported by Matt Janning, who scored an open three as Lokomotiv led 73-64. With Tomic missing twice from the line, Barcelona landed themselves in dire straits. With less than 40 seconds remaining, Delaney scored from a triple and the stadium erupted in all-round celebrations.
Barcelona didn’t play all that bad but Lokomotiv were completed committed to fork out the historic entry to the Final Four in Berlin with an 81-67 win. Malcolm Delaney topped the score with 17 points, Singleton added 16, including 11 alone in the last quarter and 12 rebounds, Ryan Brokehoff had 14 and Matt Janning 8. For Barcelona, Stratos Perperoglou scored 13 points, Juan Carlos Navarro added 12 and Tomas Satoransky 8 with 7 assists.
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