Aris wins Champions Cup in thrilling final

Aris Thessaloniki were crowned FIBA European club basketball champions in their hometown on Sunday after a stirring late comeback in the Final Four title game earned a last-gasp 84-83 win over Poland’s Prokom Trefl. The game was the culmination of the season organized by basketball’s governing body FIBA which ends with the Final Four championship. Next weekend, Barcelona stages the rival Final Four of the breakaway Euroleague, featuring the more familiar names of Barcelona, Benetton Treviso, and CSKA Moscow, as well as newcomers Montepaschi Siena. In FIBA’s version on Sunday, the Poles looked in control for much of the game with Serb forward Dragan Markovic, their top scorer with 25 points, in impeccable form silencing the partisan crowd. Prokom went 11 points in front late in the game, but the enigmatic American Willie Solomon, who had made only one of 10 three-point attempts up to then, finally found his touch, sinking three of his last four. A foul that sent Solomon to the free-throw line with three seconds left and Prokom ahead 83-81 proved decisive. The former NBA man – he played last season with the Memphis Grizzlies, alongside Panathinaikos’s Rodney Buford and Antonis Fotsis – scored his first free throw to draw within a point, but the second hit the rim. Center Miroslav Raicevic, with a heroic leap, got the rebound and with a banked shot sent the home crowd into celebration. Solomon led all scorers with 32 points and was named the tournament’s MVP. In the third-place game, played before the final, Latvia’s Ventspils defeated Serbia and Montenegro’s Hemofarm 91-90. On Friday, Aris had capitalized for the first time on its home court advantage to beat Hemofarm 73-66, while Prokom overpowered Ventspils 79-57. The Greeks overcame a tightly organized Serb defense featuring teenage NBA draft prospect Darko Milicic (11 points) despite a poor showing from Willie Solomon, who scored only nine points. The former Grizzlies player misfired all evening but fellow American Ryan Stack (19 points) put in a towering performance under the boards. Hemofarm threatened to break away in the second quarter, establishing a 12-point lead with Milicic dominant under both baskets. But Aris guard Yiannis Gagaloudis came off the bench to drag them back into the match. (Reuters, Kathimerini)

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