SPORTS

Panathinaikos wins title in overtime

Panathinaikos managed to beat archrival Olympiakos 101-94 at home on June 5 despite the absence of its captain, Dimitris Diamantidis, to win a ninth consecutive title.

The match at the Olympic Sports Hall was a real basketball show with two of the best teams in Europe, but was marred by Panathinaikos fans who repeatedly hurled objects onto the court and forced referees to stop the game several times.

The contest was evenly balanced in regulation time despite the injury to Diamantidis just one-and-a-half minutes into the first period, which deprived Panathinaikos of this season?s best player in Europe.

It therefore fell to Antonis Fotsis to rise to the occasion and become the hero for the European champion, which won its 13th title in the last 14 years.

Olympiakos had the upper hand for most of the first half as the Greens were reeling from the absence of the player who usually guides their attacks and consolidates their defense.

The Reds recovered from a 7-2 deficit to lead 10-7 and then 30-23, seemingly capitalizing on Panathinaikos’s confusion.

The lead proved short-lived. The hosts, boosted by the roars of support from their 20,000 fans, cut the deficit quickly and finished the first half on top (41-39).

Again the second half kept swinging both ways, with a Panathinaikos 43-39 lead followed by an Olympiakos four-point advantage (53-49).

It always looked as if it would go down to the wire, and it did. The tense finale of the fourth period saw the two teams level at 83-83, the highest score of all their meetings in the finals.

Jamon Gordon’s five fouls cost Olympiakos during overtime, while Vassilis Spanoulis’s lack of concentration deprived the Reds of some crucial points.

At the other end Fotsis scored one three-pointer after another to end the match with six out of six.

Three-and-a-half seconds before the end of the overtime, with the score already at 101-94, a number of fans stormed the court to celebrate. The Olympiakos players rushed to the locker room and only returned after five minutes for the match to finish under the threat of another invasion.

Fotsis ended the game with 22 points, while Mike Batiste grabbed another 22 for the new champion. Spanoulis scored 18 for Olympiakos.

Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic did not mince his words: ?I am not happy because of some people who entered the court. Those people must stop. The other fans must stop them.?

He then went on to confess his pride for what the team achieved this season: ?This year could be the best season I have had here. In 2007 and 2009 we may have won the triple-crown. This year, though, I feel more proud of the team, because last summer nobody thought we would get to the Euroleague final and win it and then win this title, too, except for us!?