SPORTS

Tough job ahead for Panathinaikos

Panathinaikos will have a mountain to climb as it must eliminate favorite Barcelona if it is to reach the Final Four of this season’s Euroleague, after finishing second in their pool at the Top-16 on March 3.

The Greens defeated Unicaja Malaga 77-61 in Spain on March 3, but had to settle for second in their group as another Spanish side, Caja Laboral, managed to beat Lietuvos Rytas at Vilnius on the same evening to top the pool on a better head-to-head record with the Greek champions.

Panathinaikos had to beat Malaga away in order to ensure it reached the Euroleague playoffs and was completely dominant as it was playing what their coach, Zeljko Obradovic dubbed ”a final”.

The Greeks had Drew Nicholas and Dimitris Diamantidis on a great evening, as they scored 18 and 15 points respectively, although the most impressive contribution came from substitute Nick Calathes in defence.

Caja Laboral’s victory at Lietuvos Rytas with a 77-68 score took them to 10 points out of six games, the same as Panathinaikos.

The Greens will now have to face the hosts of the Final-Four, Barcelona in the quarterfinals, that is a best-of-five playoff series, with the Catalans enjoying home advantage.

The series starts on March 22 in Spain. On the same date the series between Olympiakos and Siena begins in Piraeus.

On March 4 the Hellenic Basketball Federation (EOK) confirmed the hiring of coach Ilias Zouros.

”The Greek coach has taken the reins of all Greek’s favorite [team] ahead of the Eurobasket of Lithuania next summer and the 2012 Olympic Games in London,” the EOK statement read.

In the women?s Eurocup, holder Athinaikos failed to reach the final as it went out to Israel?s Elitzur Ramla on March 3.

The Greek champion won 88-81 in the second leg at home, but had lost by 15 points in Israel and crashed out.