U18 Mega Leks Belgrade is the first team going to the 2015-16 Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Finals in Berlin next spring after it defeated U18 Stellazzurra Basketball Academy Rome 71-73 in the final game of the EB ANGT Qualifying Tournament – Torneo Citta di Roma on Tuesday. Mega fought back from a 15-point first-quarter deficit to reach its first ANGT Finals. The winners were led by Aleksandar Aranitovic, who collected 28 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 8 fouls drawn against Stellazzurra. Novak Music added 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals in the victory while 15-year-old Marko Pecarski chipped in 12 points and 5 rebounds. The reigning ANGT Rome champion Stellazzurra was appearing in its third straight final as host, but wound up empty-handed despite 14 points from Donato Vitale and 13 points and 11 rebounds from Scott Ulaneo. Sandro Mamukelashvili and Lazar Nikolic both scored 13 points and Emanuele Trapani added 12 points in the loss. Aranitovic, who played an integral part in the title games of the last two ANGT Finals with Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade, was named the MVP of ANGT Rome. Joining him on the all-tournament team were Mamukelashvili, Alessandro Pajola of U18 Virtus Bologna, Nemaja Dincic of U18 Armani Junior Milan and Ablaye Sow of U18 Unicaja Malaga.
Aleksa Matic got the scoring going in the title game for Mega and Nikolic evened it at 2-2. Music split 2 free throws to make 2-3 but the host team got 4 points from Trapani in an 8-0 run to move ahead 10-3. Aranitovic temporarily stopped the bleeding but Mamukelashvili and Nikolic combined for 9 points in a 10-0 Stellazzurra spurt to jump ahead 20-5. Mega eventually started getting defensive stops and kept Stellazzurra scoreless for 4 minutes to get back into the game. Goga Bitadze tallied 5 points including a three-pointer in a 0-12 Mega run to close the gap to 20-17. Trapani finally snapped the scoring drought for Stellazzurra, which led 22-17 after 10 minutes. Ulaneo opened the second quarter with a score for Stellazzurra and Trapani’s free throw extended the margin to 25-17. Mega went on a 1-9 spurt with 4 points from Aranitovic to square up the game 26-26. The contest stayed tight the rest of the first half. Mega was not able to pull ahead as Jordan Philippe Bayehe tallied 4 points before Donato Vitale’s steal and layup just prior to the buzzer had Stellazzurra up 37-34 at intermission.
Pecarski trimmed the gap to 1 point to start the second half but Nikolic answered with 4 straight points and Trapani nailed a triple to push the lead back out to 8 points, 46-38. Aranitovic came up with a steal and layup and then set up Matic’s basket before a Music three-pointer got Mega to within 47-45. It was 51-50 after Aranitovic’s three-ball and Jovan Vojinovic eventually knotted the game 53-53. Bogdan Nedeljkovic put Mega ahead with the next basket 53-55 for the first time since the first points of the game. Mega held Stellazzurra scoreless for the final 3:37 of the third quarter and Aranitovic’s three-pointer had the Serbian club ahead 53-58 after 30 minutes. Vitale opened the fourth quarter with 5 points to cut the deficit to 58-60. Aranitovic stepped up with a three-pointer to re-establish a five-point advantage. After Gugliermo Caruso made it 60-63, neither side scored in the next 3 minutes. Music made 3 free throws and Aranitovic drained another three-pointer to put Mega ahead 60-69 with 3 minutes to play. Ulaneo put back an offensive rebound with 2:39 minutes left but Stellazzurra failed to score on its next 3 possessions until free throws by Vitale trimmed the deficit to 64-69 with 66 seconds left. Ulaneo’s layup made it 66-69 with 40 seconds to play but he missed the bonus free throw. After Aranitovic hit 2 free throws with 35 seconds remaining for a 66-71 lead, Vitale got a quick basket and Music made just 1 of 2 free throws, setting up Vitale’s three-pointer to make it 71-72 with 11 seconds to go. Aranitovic would split free throws with 5 seconds left but Stellazzurra could not get off a final shot to tie or win the game.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015