SPORTS

Pitino wins first league title in Europe with Panathinaikos

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

TAGS: Basketball

Panathinaikos won its third consecutive and 38th overall league title on Friday, sweeping proud finalist Promitheas Patras with a 111-77 result at the Olympic Sports Hall and a 3-0 score in the best-of-five finals. Having also beaten PAOK in the final in February, the Greens completed yet another domestic double.

This was also the first league title for NCAA legendary coach Rick Pitino on this side of the Atlantic.

The absence of Olympiakos, that has withdrawn from the Basket League in protest and got relegated to the A2 division last month, may have made the finals very predictable, but the affair was particularly entertaining and above all safe, without any fan clashes, riots etc. as in the past.

Games 2 in Patra and 3 in Athens were played in front of sell-out crowds and produced some memorable basketball, even if Panathinaikos was always the favorite and the winner.

After winning Game 1 in Athens 103-77 on Monday, the Greens overcame the strong resistance of Promitheas in Patra on Wednesday with a 92-80 score in Game 2.

Friday’s Game 3 appeared a little like an All-Star Game, with Panathinaikos scoring 62 points in the first half (62-34 at half-time).

The distance between the two teams allowed for all players on the benches to take part in the game, while the 20,000 Panathinaikos fans cheered Promitheas not only at the start of the game but also after every spectacular play it produced: an unusually healthy atmosphere for the Greek finals.

The battle for third is still raging actually, with AEK snatching back the home advantage as it responded to Peristeri’s away win last Sunday with a road victory of its own at Peristeri on Tuesday in Game 2 and a home win on Thursday.

This means that another triumph on Saturday at Peristeri, in Game 4, will see AEK win the third place, and Peristeri end up fourth this season. Otherwise the series will go back to the Olympic Sports Hall for the decider.

Online