LUKENY SPARKS PETRO DE LUANDA FOR SEMIFINAL SPOT

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For the second time in three days, Petro de Luanda defeated AS Salé, but this time the victory allowed them to reach the semi-finals of the Basketball Africa League (BAL).

The Angolan champions trounced the winners of the 2017 FIBA African Champions Cup by 19 points in their first meeting, but things were totally different on Wednesday night at Kigali Arena.

Gerson Lukeny Gonçalves scored a team-high 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc to help the two-time African champions secure the 79-72 victory over the Salé-based team.

Lukeny added a game-high 10 rebounds for his first BAL double-double, as Petro de Luanda remained undefeated at 4-0.

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Terrel Stoglin almost single-handedly kept AS Salé in contention. He finished with a game-high 30 points, but only contributed one assist while turning the ball over six times.

Moroccan international player Abderrahim Najah, the other AS Salé player to reach double digits, finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in a game that marked the end of his team’s BAL journey.

AS Salé got off to a strong start, taking an early 5-0 lead while forcing Petro de Luanda to miss its first four shots.

But then Lukeny scored the first two points for the two-time African champions and Carlos Morais followed with a three-pointer, sparking Petro de Luanda to an 11-0 run. They led 20-8 at the end of the first 10 minutes.

While Petro de Luanda appeared to be heading for another blowout win, AS Salé wouldn’t let it happen. They closed the gap to just eight points at the end of the first half (43-35).

Morais finished with 17 points, the same total reached by veteran Leonel Paulo, who energized his team off the bench with an 8-of-10 performance, including a three-pointer.

As good as he was offensively, however, Paulo picked up his third foul in the second quarter. He didn’t return until the third quarter when AS Salé had regained the lead.

“We can’t compare the two games. Before this game, I told my players to forget our last win against AS Salé and focus on today’s game. They followed my advice, but, to me, we won the game because of our aggressive defense,” said Petro de Luanda head coach Jose Neto.

AS Salé guard Rashad James, who averaged 20 points in the first three games, scored three of his five points in the second quarter on 2-for-10 shooting and didn’t have an assist.

Petro de Luanda was finally able to pull away late in the game. Big man Jone Pedro had a thunderous dunk that gave his team a 66-63 lead with 4:25 left. Antwan Scott sunk his only three-pointer for a 69-63 lead and Ryan Richard’s monstruous dunk with 3:14 left put the Angolan team in a commanding situation.

“Petro [de Luanda] is a good team. If you make many mistakes they make you pay. We are going home, we are going to try to win the Morocco league and come back next year,” said AS Salé head coach Said El Bouzidi.

What the numbers say about Petro de Luanda’s win:

Petro de Luanda’s bench contributed 30 points against AS Salé’s 12. Stoglin had only one assist in 36 minutes.