Serie A – Round 11 of the Italian Serie A brought with it a mouth watering clash between the league´s top two clubs, Montepaschi Siena and Banco di Sardegna Sassari.
Reigning Serie A champs Montepaschi came away with an away victory to lead the league for Christmas, a perfect present perhaps for what has been a difficult season so far. The seven-in-a- row current title holders sent an important message to the rest of the league and possibly also to the departing Daniel Hackett, who missed the game as he finalized a move to Milan. The team crashed out of the Euroleague last week after a frustrating Regular Season on the continent, but this win suggests that in Italy Siena is still the team to beat.
The narrow 60-62 win gives Montepaschi something to build on in the New Year as the team looks for eight titles on the trot. Despite losing out at home, Sassari will still feel strong for the rest of the season and will surely be in contention at the business end of the campaign. The team also has the next stage of the Eurocup to look forward to after a good showing in the first group phase of the competition.
The pleasing thing for Montepaschi Siena will be restricting the best attack in the league to just 60 points at home, but the visitors did not have it all their own way in the early exchanges. The champions were missing Othello Hunter (203 cm, Ohio State´08) through injury as well as Hackett, but Josh Carter (200 cm, Texas A&M´09) got the team off to a good start. However, Banco di Sardegna responded with 7 points from Caleb Green (203 cm, ORU´07) to take things level at 7-7. Siena hit back with 8 unanswered points to take early command of the game, only for the hosts to come back fighting to end the first period just two points short at 17-19.
Sassari took the lead for the first time in the game early in the second 10 minutes thanks to a three pointer from Drake Diener (196 cm, De Paul´05). Carter was proving to be a pace setter for Siena and he hit from beyond the arc twice to hand the initiative back to the visitors (27-28). Over the remaining minutes of the first half Montepaschi outscored Sassari 7 points against 2 to head in to the locker room leading 29-35.
Nerves descended on the teams in the third period as the chance to go top of the league presented itself. Sassari dominated the early part of the quarter with a 12-0 (10 coming from the foul line as Montepaschi got sloppy) run that put the hosts in command at 42-37, but Siena was not out of the contest and rallied once again to restrict the home team and cut the lead to 42-41 heading into the final stanza of the game.
Both teams jostled for dominance in the fourth quarter as the tension mounted and the easy points dried up. With the lead being exchanged both teams found themselves equal at 54-54 with just 3 minutes on the clock. The teams engaged in a score for score contest that turned into a battle of nerves, and with the clock ticking down it was Siena that held out to snatch a narrow but massively important away win.
Serie A – Week 11
Virtus RM 72-67 Grissin Bon .
JuveCaserta 86-80 Cimberio VA
Vanoli CR 80-82 V.Libertas PS
Enel Brindisi 76-80 Sutor MGR
Granarolo BO 74-78 Sidigas AV
Giorgo Tesi . 81-62 Umana VE