Despite the end of the holidays, the cold and cloudy weather, even by St. Petersburg standards, as well as traffic jams, the people in the Sibur Arena gathered decently. Even the Zenit handball team came to support their teammates in full force – led by the legendary Olympic champion and two-time world champion Dmitry Torgovanov.
Loko players couldn’t spoil the mood of the stands. The blue-white-blues immediately led 5-0, after which they never allowed the wards of Alexander Sekulich to come forward or restore balance during the opening quarter. The Slovenian coach of “Loko” called for the most intense pace and vigorously shuffled the squad, already in the first period involving 11 basketball players (all except center Kirill Yelatontsev). Forward DeVon Akun-Purcell made his active debut as a member of the Krasnodar club, but the desire to prove himself brightly at first played a cruel joke on him: 3 fouls in a minute and a half. However, before that he scored an effective transfer to Andrey Martyuk.
It was the latter who became the mastermind of the guest chase. At the beginning of the second ten minutes, Martyuk implemented two attacks in a row, and the guests’ lag from “-10” was reduced to “-6”. And then he also wrote out a magnificent block shot to Thomas Wimbush – however, the referees recorded a foul.
Passions on the parquet gradually heated up. Forward Egor Sychkov, after a hard collision, was able to leave the parquet only with the help of the medical staff…
The hosts looked preferable in the fight for selection (22 against 12 in the first half) – in general, it is not surprising, given that the position of the center in the “Loco” is closed by the nominal powerful forward Martyuk, and Anton Kvitkovsky had to be released periodically for the fourth number. Well, the big Zenit – that of Richard Solomon, that of Artem Klimenko – has a complete order with the size. In addition, the shots of the guests’ snipers did not reach the target for a long time. It was only in the second quarter that Krasnodar players recorded their first accurate three–pointer – Akun-Purcell scored. And he scored again a couple of minutes later from behind the arc, making the lag “Loco” quite working – 27:31.
The hosts immediately ran away again to a double-digit distance, but the red-greens, due to aggressive defense, organized two quick breakaways in a row – 32:37. The same 5 points difference remained by the big break.
The guests could not get to a really dangerous distance for a long time. For each of their hits, the Petersburgers had a prompt and effective response. Also, the Loko defense began to fail in the third quarter, and the cunning Thomas Ertel repeatedly provided his partners with opportunities to hammer balls into a defenseless ring from above. However, the Frenchman himself did not miss the chance to score – 57:41 in favor of Zenit after his three-pointer.
It remained to rejoice that Akun-Purcell did not postpone the matter of adaptation to the new team and scored for every taste. By the middle of the third quarter of the debut match, he had already scored 15 points.
After Akun-Purcell made the third three–pointer and brought his personal score to 18 points, and Zakhar Vedishchev followed his example in the next attack, intrigue returned to the match – 55:64. Soon Sychkov earned the right to three penalties – and realized all three, 61:67. 2 minutes before the final siren, Martyuk from the penalty line still closed the gap – 67:72. And 73 seconds before the siren, it became very hot and interesting – only “-3”!
And it seemed like Loko defended himself well a few seconds later – however, the referees recorded a foul on Ertel at the same time as the end of the time for the attack. However, the most experienced playmaker smeared 2 penalties out of 3! Made the current league champion nervous! Immediately – Akun-Purcell in a heavy pass reduced the gap to just “-2”. And a few seconds later, Barford threw a three–pointer to win – but luck turned away from the guests…
But, despite the final result, both the character of the team and its selection after this match makes us look at the second part of the season with a certain degree of cautious optimism.
The next match of Loko will be held on January 15 in the Krasnodar Basket Hall against Minsk. The match starts at 17:00.