Olympiakos given a chance

A sports tribunal yesterday nullified the result of the first game in basketball’s best-of-three semifinal series between the game’s victor, AEK, and Olympiakos after the latter appealed against what it considered to be an egregious error committed by one of the game’s two referees late in the game. Had the game’s result, 68-66 in favor of AEK, remained valid, the side would have secured a place in a best-of-five final series against Panathinaikos to defend last year’s title. With the semifinal series now back at 1-1, AEK must meet Olympiakos again tomorrow night for its berth. With just 13 seconds of play remaining, an offensive rebound won by an Olympiakos player one second before the 24-second clock expired was strangely ignored by the chief referee who gave the Piraeus side just the remaining second to attempt a shot. The shot clock ought to have been reset. It had been obvious that as soon as Olympiakos filed the complaint, it would win a decision in its favor, however, a Basketball League judge threw the complaint out on a technicality and Olympiakos appealed to the tribunal. The delay allowed the teams to complete their series. However, commentators have blamed the league for not waiting for the final decision. The best-of-five final series was scheduled to begin tomorrow night, but will now be rescheduled. Despite their deep gratification, Olympiakos officials and players made no comments on the tribunal’s decision. By match time for tomorrow’s repeat game, Olympiakos coach Lefteris Subotic could have at his disposal three players recovering from injury, DeMarco Johnson, veteran guard Nikos Boudouri, and forward Nenad Markovic. The latter two, according to club officials, stand a greater chance of being fit in time for the game. AEK, which had imagined itself in the final for a couple of days, will need to recover from the shock felt by the tribunal’s decision. AEK’s Serb coach Dragan Sakota, for example, was reportedly getting his hair cut in preparation for the final series when the news was broken to him. Despite the understandable disappointment which resulted the decision, AEK’s players, who will be playing at home, are keeping their spirits high. «We will win again. It’s certain,» said guard NIkos Zisis. AEK’s organized fan club, Original 21, is demanding exclusivity to all the tickets for the repeat game in a bid to generate an even more frenzied atmosphere than was sparked last Saturday. Should AEK lose the repeat match, and a subsequent lucrative three-year deal with the Euroleague, the club says it will sue the Greek sports tribunal for damages.

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