There was drama on the first day of the Basketball Champions League 2021-22 Qualifying Rounds, with the neighborhood derby going ZZ Leiden’s way. Elsewhere, a pair of basketball towns made their comeback to European basketball with wins that sent them to the Semi-Finals of their respective groups.
ZZ Leiden wasn’t considered a favorite against Belgian runners-up Belfius Mons-Hainaut, especially not when their 2020-21 season MVP Emmanuel Nzekwesi left the club and joined Belfius Mons-Hainaut. On Monday, he had a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double against his former team, but the Dutch champs still had Worthy de Jong on board.
De Jong led the way back from a 9-point deficit over the last four minutes, and with just over two seconds left to play, he was the one inbounding the ball for ZZ Leiden in a perfect play drawn up by coach Geert Hammink. He went backdoor and got the perfect assist from Asbjoern Midtgaard, allowing Worthy de Jong to beat the buzzer and set the final score at 76-74.
De Jong finished the game with 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. Midtgaard added 22 points to the mix while shooting 10-of-13 from the field. Marcus Tyus had 21 points for coach Vedran Bosnic, but Belfius Mons-Hainaut will not join compatriots Filou Oostende in the Regular Season.
Leiden will now face Tsmoki-Minsk in the Semi-Finals in Treviso. In the other part of the draw, the tournament hosts in Italy allowed no surprises in their matchup with the London Lions. Nutribullet Treviso built up a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back in an 89-62 win.
The game was a blueprint of Massimiliano Menotti’s basketball. Just 62 points allowed at one end and sharing the ball at the other, with 24 assists and six men in double figures. Henry Sims scored 16 points, and youngster Giordano Bortolani knocked down three three-pointers en route to 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Nutribullet Treviso will be back in action on September 15, facing the Bakken Bears for a place in the Final in the Palaverde. The arena was home to Benetton Treviso, one of the biggest clubs in Europe over the 1990s and 2000s, and now it seems like continental basketball could be back to the same spot with Nutribullet Treviso, founded in 2012, being just two wins away from Regular Season.
Treviso has a new club in Europe, but for Split, Croatia, it’s still the same one that was winning European titles in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were named Jugoplastika and Pop 84 when they won three straight FIBA European Champions Cups from 1989 to 1991. They are named KK Split now as they are about to play the Semi-Finals in Greece.
The finalists of the Croatian League held Petrolina AEK to just 50 points in their 65-50 win to start the program in Peristeri. They seemed a step in front for most of the game, and once Lovre Runjic, Mateo Kedzo, and Karlo Zganec got them going offensively to start the fourth quarter, it was smooth sailing for coach Srdjan Subotic.
Split won their first European competition game in 17 years. The yellow-and-black team from Croatia will play against the champions of Switzerland, Fribourg Olympic, in the Semi-Finals.
The same arena saw a completely different game later on Monday. U-BT Cluj Napoca advanced to the final four phase of the Qualifying Rounds by outgunning Salon Vilpas 106-97 – both teams had 30-point quarters, knocking down a combined 25-of-50 shots from beyond the arc.
Patrick Richard had six three-pointers, 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists for the Romanian champions, and five more guys scored 15 or more for coach Mihai Silvasan. Among them were Andrija Stipanovic and Toni Katic, two former KK Split players who need to get over the hosts Peristeri in the Semi-Finals to keep alive the possibility of meeting their ex-club in the Final in Greece.
Another host team was in action in the Quarter-Finals in Tallinn, Estonia. BC Kalev/Cramo held Sporting CP to just 9 second-quarter points, storming away for an 86-69 win behind Kamari Murphy’s 15 points and 8 rebounds.
Portuguese champions were ice cold, shooting just 33 percent from the field, but it wasn’t their long shots that weren’t falling. They knocked down 11-of-27 three-pointers while hitting only 13-of-46 from inside the arc, confirming the pre-game statements about BC Kalev/Cramo being a tough physical team.
The champions of the Latvian-Estonian Basketball League made 11-of-23 from deep themselves and had a 27-point lead at one point. It won’t get any easier for them the rest of the way. They’ve got Mornar Bar in the Semi-Finals on Wednesday.
In the other Semi-Final in Tallinn, Brose Bamberg will play against Uniclub Casino – Juventus, who blew out the Kapfenberg Bulls 90-68. The Austrians probably circled two names from the opposing team before the game but could do nothing to stop the domestic one-two punch for the Lithuanians.
Martynas Gecevicius hit five three-pointers and finished with 19 points, while Mindaugas Kupsas needed less than 22 minutes for a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double. Juventus will need more of the same in two days to stay alive and reach their third Regular Season campaign in the BCL.