SPORTS

AEK bids farewell to top flight

AEK was relegated for the first time in its history on April 20, following Iraklis down to the A2 division, after the results of the regular season’s last round of games.

The club that won Greece’s first European club trophy in 1968 (the Cup Winners’ Cup), added another in 2000 (the Saporta Cup) and reached the final of the Euroleague in 1998 will not feature in the top division next season.

Coach Angelos Koronios’s team was not the favorite to stay up going into Wednesday’s games, as it needed a victory over Panionios at home as well as for Ilisiakos to lose at Kolossos.

AEK succeeded in the first part of the equation, defeating Panionios 76-68, but Ilisiakos managed to snatch the ticket for next season’s A1 by beating Kolossos 58-49 on Rhodes after a nervy game.

Consequently AEK, which won the last of its nine Greek league titles in 2002, is facing a season in the wilderness, which may be extended if the rumors about a possible bankruptcy prove right. In that case, AEK will go straight to the third tier, the B Ethniki, in order to start working its way back up again without the debts that it is burdened by now.

In the evening’s other games, Olympiakos completed its remarkable feat of having a perfect record of 26 wins out of 26 games, defeating Iraklis 83-44 at Thessaloniki.

Panathinaikos, in second, registered a record victory margin of 70 points, thrashing Panellinios 112-42 at home.

Third-placed PAOK won 73-68 at Kavala and is aiming at Greeces third Euroleague ticket. Its main rival will be Aris, which finished fourth after defeating Ikaros Kallitheas 97-74 at Thessaloniki.

Peristeri grabbed a ticket for the playoffs through a victory over Maroussi with a 75-56 score and left Panionios out of the post-season action.

The top eight teams will now meet in the league quarterfinals in best-of-three series that start on April 30, except for the series featuring Panathinaikos. This will start two days earlier due to the Greens’ commitments in the Euroleague Final Four on May 6-8.

The pairings are as follows: Olympiakos vs Kolossos, Panathinaikos vs Peristeri, PAOK vs Kavala and Aris vs Maroussi.