Miracle in Krasnodar: Loko and Basket Hall beat CSKA -19!

Playing from the beginning of the second quarter without their head coach Aleksander Sekulic suspended, Loko players managed to take a 19-point lead on CSKA and pulled out a win in game three of the series, 84-81!

Before the game, Lokomotiv-Kuban president Andrey Vedischev awarded the VTB United League Player of the Year Award to Andrei Martyuk. To remind, the Krasnodar forward won the award for the second year in a row. Martyuk was Loko’s most successful offensive option in the opening quarter, first converting a two-point conversion on offense and then pressuring Livio Jean-Charles.

But for a long time, Loko’s offensive success could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Dmitri Uzinsky had a nice burst into the game, grabbing 5 rebounds in 5 minutes; Chris Horton, following his jump shot on a fastbreak, made a nice blockshot to Kasper Ware on the opposite end of the floor. But the home team’s dedication to the game (Shcherbenyov even suffered a nasty elbow hit by Devontay Kaycock) didn’t translate into points scored. In the opening quarter, all seven of Loko’s long-range attempts fell short of the mark.

Meanwhile, the Army team, thanks to some successful exchanges on offense, regularly enjoyed an advantage over their opponents – and used that advantage to good effect. At the end of the first quarter, the visitors had an advantage of a dozen points.

Fortunately, in the second quarter, Jaylen Barford started scoring from beyond the arc. But right after his second shot, the officials called a technical foul on Uzinsky for trying to foul, a few seconds later on Martyuk for the rebound, and not long after that two technicals on Aleksandr Sekulic. The home team’s head coach left the court for the locker room. “Basket Hall” hissed and his voice so loud that it seemed the roof of the arena would collapse and keep the basketball gods off the floor.

It was reminded of how last year, also in game three of the CSKA-Loko semifinal series, referee Alexey Davidov (still working today) set a record, handing out four technical fouls in the first 11 minutes of the game to the home team. As a result, the meeting ended with a convincing win for the Loko…

The home team once again shrank the lead, but Casper Ware and his teammates seemed to have forgotten what it meant to miss from beyond the arc. By halftime, the Army team was up +9.

Two minutes after the restart, the lead was 15 points – Alexey Shved and Dejan Davidovac made three-pointers apiece. Loko players refused to get the ball in the basket, allowing only two points in one half of the quarter. The Army team continued to score – Kaycock from above, Shved from beyond the arc – 63-44 in favor of the visitors.

However, -19 with 12 minutes to go was not a verdict. The Army team suffered perhaps their most embarrassing loss in recent history, losing by exactly the same margin in one of their Euroleague finals against Olympiacos. Except that players with the experience of Vasilis Spanoulis or Georgios Printezis are absent from today’s Loko…

But there is the energetic and reactive Barford! A quick pass, followed by a magnificent shot from up high, forced CSKA head coach Emil Rajkovic to call a timeout before his team’s lead was erased.

It helped… Cacok went on to make sure Nikola Milutinov wasn’t mentioned once in this report, with Artem Komolov picking up the three-point baton for the visitors. 69-53 in favor of CSKA before the final quarter.

Vladislav Emchenko tried to lead Loko’s final drive, scoring 5 points in a row. But Ware made his fourth three-pointer of the season – and jokingly saluted the home team’s bench. After that, an experienced Nikita Kurbanov first fouled Anton Kvitkovskikh and then sealed the fast break. Even the home floor began to play against the home team at some point – Emchenko slipped on the flat…

Still, the raging Basket Hall motivated the wards – now Jurica Zuza – to make another run! DeVon Akun-Purcell and Okaro White made three-pointers each, while Martyuk fouled Ivan Ukhov and fought hard underneath, and Akun-Purcell also made free throws, adding a layup for Alexander Scherbenev, -5 in total with 4.5 minutes to go.

The Army team’s nerves began to give out. Davidovac fouled White in a harmless situation under the basket – White hit two free throws to make the lead quite symbolic, 72-75.

Loko kept their momentum going with Akun-Purcell – 16-0 and only -1! And the same evil genius of Krasnodar in the series – Ware – brought CSKA’s lead to “+5” with 2 minutes to go.

Even after that, the Red and Green had no intention of giving up. White’s shot on a layup with a foul made it 79-81. And with 37 seconds to go, Chris Horton fouled out for an 82-81 lead for Loko, their first lead of the game.

Ware predictably paced the home team’s comeback attack, which the home team then four-handedly clobbered. They closed the sky and the ceiling so tightly that the ball didn’t even touch the post after the Army team leader’s shot!

Barford hit two free throws to make it 84-81! Moore finished the visitors’ final possession, but his shot missed the target. “Loko earned one of the most convincing victories in VTB United League playoff history and took a 2-1 lead in the series. The fourth game takes place on April 22 at 14:00.

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