Panathinaikos Survives Apollon, 81-73

League-leading perennial power Panathinaikos looked lethargic but managed to come away with an 81-73 win against a hard-charging Apollon Patras team in the Greek basketball league on Jan 13, playing at an empty Olympic Sports Hall because of a penalty barring fans from attending.

The win saved the Green perfect home record to stay on top of the A1 league heading into a game against its arch-rival Olympiakos next week. Olympiakos, the European champion, is playing poorly but managed to get into second place a day earlier by beating Panionios, 77-66, a few days after taking a 30 point beating to Armani Milano in European club play.

“Our players have to realize where they are, and which vest they are wearing,” said an angry Argyris Pedoulakis after the match with Apollon. Panathinaikos almost blew a 19-point (49-30) lead as the visitors challenged the league leaders with a spirited effort against their highly favored opponents.

Victories by Ilisiakos and Kolossos led to the firing of the coaches of their opponents. Ilsiakos beat AGO Rethymnou 86-72, whose coach Thanasis Yaples and his likely replacement with Giorgos Kalafatakis were dumped. The Rhodes team upset Aris in Thessaloniki 68-57 to force the return of coach Milan Minic to the Yellows after almost 11 years.

PAOK, in fourth, beat cellar-dweller Ikaros 86-78 at Halkida to stay one point ahead of KAO Dramas, which beat visiting Trikala 83-70. Newly promoted Nea Kifissia climbed to the sixth place with its 81-73 win of Panelefsiniakos.