By George Georgakopoulos
A very difficult day for Panathinaikos basketball club ended in the best possible fashion, with a crucial win over Fenerbahce Ulker and a very emotional reunion with its former star Mike Batiste, as the Greens won 69-55 in front of some 13,000 fans at the Olympic Sports Hall on Friday.
The six-time European champion put aside the serious problem to the club that the announced departure of president Dimitris Giannakopoulos and his erupted feud with his uncle and previous administrator of the club may entail, to climb to the top of their Euroleague group one round of games before that ends.
Batiste appeared unfazed at the start of the game from the adventure of the previous night - which he spent in captivity for debts to tax authorities that Panathinaikos settled on Friday morning - and helped Fenerbahce take a 12-4 lead.
Yet that was all the Turkish side could do on the night. When Panathinaikos coach Argyris Pedoulakis tightened his defense and brought in Sofoklis Schortsanitis, it was always a matter of time till the Greens bagged victory in this one.
They led 29-23 at half-time and kept the upper hand for the rest of the match. In the last five minutes the hosts had a partial score of 14-3 to turn a rather slender 55-48 lead to an 18-point advantage (69-51) that sealed their sixth win in nine group games.
Andy Panko was the top scorer for Panathinaikos, although it was another former Green, Romain Sato to outscore him with 20 points for Fenerbahce.
But the lasting picture from this evening will be the tearful Batiste, who wearing the Fenerbahce colors now was honored by former Panathinaikos president Pavlos Giannakopoulos, the father of Dimitris, and addressed the Panathinaikos fans saying: “You will always be in my heart till the day I die. I believe that sooner or later our paths will cross again.”