NEWS

Panathinaikos reaches Athens basketball final

Three-time European champion Panathinaikos defeated Spain’s Tau Ceramica 67-53 in their Euroleague semifinal at the Final Four tournament in Athens last night for a place in tomorrow’s final against CSKA Moscow, the defending champion. Tau had won four of its last six games against Panathinaikos, including the previous two. Panathinaikos held a sturdy lead throughout the game. Last year, Tau deprived Panathinaikos of a Final Four appearance by edging out the Athens club 74-71 in their best-of-three quarterfinal series’ deciding game. Interestingly, Tau’s coach Bozidar Maljkovic had led Panathinaikos to its first Euroleague title in 1996. Earlier yesterday, defending champions CSKA Moscow qualified for tomorrow’s final after overcoming Spanish underdogs Unicaja 62-50 in a defense-dominated encounter. CSKA managed to break away in the final quarter. The semifinalists were tied at 44-44 at the end of the third period. Unicaja led with a little over seven minutes of play remaining, but a 12-0 run from CSKA ended any possibility of what would have been a major upset. American guard Trajan Langdon topped the scoring for CSKA with 13 points, two more than the Russian team’s Greek star Thodoris Papaloukas, one of his club’s top performers last night. Ettore Messina, CSKA Moscow’s Italian coach, is striving for his second straight and fourth title overall in Europe’s leading club-level basketball competition. The Final Four is the first of two major events in Athens this month. The Greek capital is also hosting the Champions League soccer final on May 23, when AC Milan and Liverpool do battle for the European title.