By Dmitry Baranovsky
A late start in the selection campaign forced the head coach of the Belarusian squad to make some last minute adjustments. Its performance in the play-offs of the EuroChallenge — Europe’s third most important club tournament — was vital; facing French Nancy at Minsk Arena, defeat meant automatic expulsion while victory would enable us to continue our struggle.
The French were tackling a similar dilemma, resulting in a fierce struggle for the ball from the outset. The Minskers managed a five point gap by the end of the second quarter but failed to take this further after the break. Outside shots by Juan Smith and Alexander Kudryavtsev were soon matched by close basket shots by Marcellus Sommerville and Herve Toure and it was truly the final minutes which decided the game. Kudryavtsev was the most useful player of the match, realising two penalties after Torrell Martin’s falls, bringing the final score to 78:71 with a spectacular shot.
The victory over Nancy, alongside French Gravelines’ defeat by outsider Apollo Cyprus, has enabled Minsk to top Group G.