There's still life at the Thessaloniki hoops scene

By George Georgakopoulos

Thessaloniki clubs Aris and PAOK proved there is still life in the city’s once-mighty basketball despite the huge financial problems it has faced, as Aris upset Panionios in Athens and PAOK came within a whisker of beating European champion Olympiakos.

While leader Panathinaikos shook off its Thursday loss at Malaga for the Euroleague to defeat in-form Nea Kifissia 72-59 on Sunday at home, the two teams following it had serious problems in this 18th round of A1 league games.

Olympiakos faced PAOK in Thessaloniki behind closed doors and escaped by the skin of its collective teeth with a 74-72 victory, despite trailing 72-67 with a minute to go at a place where the Reds traditionally have problems.

Panionios, tired from its trip to Niznhy Novgorod for the Eurocup three days earlier, lost 68-63 to Aris at home, a couple of months after the Thessaloniki team had beaten Panionios again in the cup semifinal. It showed that under coach Milan Minic Aris is on the rise, given also its good first-half performance in the Greek Cup final six days earlier against Panathinaikos.

These results mean that Olympiakos is now alone in second, one point ahead of Panionios and three behind Panathinaikos.

Ikaros Halkidas and Kolossos Rhodes grabbed precious wins in their effort to stay up, with Ikaros beating Trikala 81-74 at Halkida and Kolossos downing Panelefsiniakos 67-57 on Rhodes.

Elsewhere, KAO Dramas managed to fend off Ilisiakos’s challenge at Zografou winning 74-70 on Saturday, while AGO Rethymnou beat visiting Apollon Patras by 20 (92-72) on Sunday.