ATHENS – The struggling Panathinaikos basketball team shocked European champion and league-leading Olympiakos’s unbeaten streak, defeating the favorites 67-59 in the Greek Cup semifinal between the two dominant powers to win a spot in the final against Thessaloniki’s Aris, which beat Panionios, 88-79. The championship will be played on Feb. 9 in Iraklio, Crete.
The rebuilding Panathinaikos team switched from its usual fire-away three-point bomb strategy to play tight defense and take it to the hoop against the startled Reds who had been knocking off team after team this year.
The winners got a boost from the return of two injured key players, Jonas Maciulis and Nikos Pappas and they both delivered solid performances that saw their team lead for most of the game at Olympic Sports Hall and as the losers usually reliable shooters firing blanks.
Panathinaikos, rebounding fiercely, led 20-13 just before the end of the first period before Olympiakos spurted an 11-1 run to lead 35-34 at the half, but it was short-lived. Panathinaikos kept the one-point lead after a lackluster third period in which both teams scored only 10 points each that saw Olympiakos’ set Vassilis Spanoulis on the bench much of the quarter.
Panathinaikos got a spirited game from Stephane Lasme to open the difference to 61-53 and begin to pull away. For upstart Aris, this will be its first time in the final in nine years. It led most of the game, the last for coach Vangelis Angelou who said he will next year coach Euroleague stalwart Anadolu Efes of Turkey.