EA7 Milan hit back in the Italian Serie A finals series to defeat Montepaschi Siena 72-74 on the road to take the series to a seventh and decisive game. Reigning champs Montepaschi had fought back from 2-0 down in the series to lead 3-2 and needed this home win to secure an eighth consecutive Serie A title.
However, despite going close the hosts were pegged back by Milan and the series will now head to an all or nothing contest.
Montepaschi Siena vs. EA7 Milan, 72-74
Othello Hunter opened the scoring with a basket under the net, giving Montepaschi Siena the first lead of the game at 2-0. Hunter doubled the advantage to 4-0 with another score in the paint, before Alessandro Gentile scored from middle distance to open Milan’s account (4-2). Hunter was pacing Siena in the opening minutes and he struck again under the net to extend the lead to 6-2, although Keith Langford poured in the first triple of the night to make it 6-5. Langford scored the next two points from the charity strip to give Milan its first lead of the game, with the scoreboard reading 6-5. The teams traded through the middle of the first quarter with Hunter and Langford continuing to trouble the scoreboard (17-17). With the quarter drawing to a close, Daniel Hackett and Gani Lawal stepped up for the visitors to score four points and give Milan a 17-21 lead, but Josh Carter secured his second triple of the frame to reduce the deficit to 20-21 after 10 minutes.
Gentile opened the scoring in the second quarter to extend EA7’s lead to 20-24, but Marquez Haynes responded for Montepaschi Siena from downtown. Hunter took the initiative again in the mix and stole the lead back for the hosts (25-24) and Jeff Viggiano nailed from beyond the arc to respond to Lawal’s split free throws (28-25). Haynes and Viggiano continued to pace the defending champs through the middle of the period, pushing the Siena club to 32-27. However, Milan once again came back thanks to four points at the post from David Moss and another 50% effort from Lawal that tied the game. During the final minutes of the second quarter EA7 outpaced Montepaschi 4-13 to secure a 36-40 lead at halftime.
Hunter was on hand once again and opened the third straight quarter with a score in the paint (38-40), before Gentile and Langford teamed to share triples to extend Milan to 46-38. Thomas Ress hit back for the hosts with a triple of his own, but Milan was in a groove and Gentile took four points to take the advantage to nine points (41-50). Haynes and Samardo Samuels traded baskets before Hunter and Matt Janning combined for four points to bring Siena closer at 47-52. However, the visitors were not letting go of the lead easily as Nicolo Melli streamed in from beyond the arc to put the score at 47-55. Milan controlled the next two minutes with a strong show at both ends and Lawal capped the spell with two points that put the deficit at 11 points (50-61). Haynes and carter with a triple closed the gap, but Lawal sandwiched those scores to give Milan a comfortable 55-63 lead after 30 minutes.
Kristjan Kangu extended Milan to double figures again at the start of the fourth, with the scoreboard now reading 55-65. Title chasing Montepaschi Siena went on a mini 5-0 run courtesy of a two pointer from Haynes and a triple from Carter to half the deficits at 60-65. The hosts continued the push and made that 5-0 run an 11-0 streak that changed the game and gave Siena the lead once again. It also meant the club was on course to retain the title. Milan showed character and responded as the teams traded until the score was locked at 72-72 with seconds on the clock. In the dying seconds of the game Jerrells Curtis stepped up and netted a two pointer to hand victory to Milan and extend the series.
Gentile led Milan in a close fought win by securing 23 points and 7 rebounds for the team. Langford kept up his good season with 13 points, while Lawal took 10 points and 9 rebounds.
Haynes paced Montepaschi Siena with 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, while Carter had 19 points built on strong shooting from range and Hunter had 18 points and 8 rebounds.