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15 Jan, 2009 09:12

Basketball: Khimki tops Eurocup qualifying group

In basketball's Eurocup, Khimki have topped their qualifying group thanks to a thrilling 80 – 71 victory over Benetton.

Moscow region’s Khimki looked to be cruising, going into the final quarter of the match, but a fight back by the Italians set up a nail-biting final few minutes.

Although both sides had already qualified for the top 16, there was still a lot for Khimki and Benetton to play for. First place in the group was at stake.

The home side was without its star player Jorge Garbajosa, who was suffering from a finger injury, but he was hardly missed early on.

Kelly McCarty sank a couple of three-pointers from the field, getting Khimki off to a great start.

However, Benetton, who had already beaten Khimki earlier in the season kept themselves in the match, while the three-pointer from Garry Neal kept the Italians in touch.

The Russian side remained solid in their defence. An excellent block shot by Nikita Shablin, helped the hosts to open up a nine-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

Khimki continued where they had left off in the second, with Carlos Delfino helping his team maintain their advantage.

Benetton continued to plug away, but were unable to get anywhere near to tying the game up, as Khimki would go into the half time break with a 45 – 36 lead.

The third quarter was all Khimki, as Benetton seemed to have no answer to the home side's onslaught.

However, things started to get interesting in the final 10 minutes.

Khimki managed to let a ten-point lead slip, as Benetton tied the game up at 66 all, with around five minutes to go.

The match could have gone either way, but important steals from McCarty and Carlos Delfino, who finished with a personal high of 19 points, helped to seal the 80 points to 71 win.