Panathinaikos wins the title

Panathinaikos snatched a thrilling overtime victory from AEK late on Wednesday to win the playoff basketball finals 3-1 and win its fifth league title in the past six years, the third under Serb coach Zeljko Obradovic. Forward Antonis Fotsis, who had had a rather substandard finals series so far, scored two crucial three-point baskets during overtime and, most importantly, blocked a shot by AEK guard Joe Crispin as time expired to preserve the 81-80 victory. The match was played at AEK’s temporary home ground at Ano Liosia and most experts believed that the championship would be decided in the fifth and final match. However, AEK was missing its most important player, forward Dimos Dikoudis, injured after the first finals match. Thus far, it had managed to compensate for his loss with team effort and the unexpected emergence of 20-year-old forward Yiannis Bouroussis, who had been confined to the bench so far. But, at the crucial moment, Dikoudis’s absence hurt the team. AEK came out roaring, taking a 14-8 lead. Panathinaikos’s greater depth, however, was a crucial factor, allowing it to take a 35-32 lead at halftime. In the second half, AEK relied on its defense to get back into the game and take a 48-42 lead. It extended the lead to 58-51 seven-and-a-half minutes from time. At that point, the match was interrupted for 15 minutes, as AEK fans, enraged by a foul plus a technical called on forward Christos Tapoutos, started throwing all sorts of objects to the court. Panathinaikos caught up and, at the end of regular time, the score was tied at 71. AEK guard Rodrick Blackney was the game’s high scorer, with 22 points. Panathinaikos’s more balanced offense was led by guard Ariel McDonald, who scored 15. After the match, Dikoudis declared that he was going to continue his career abroad. Last summer, the 27-year-old forward went to try his luck in the NBA but was severely injured at a training camp. Panathinaikos’s popular President Pavlos Yiannakopoulos, a pharmaceuticals magnate, confirmed in a radio interview his desire to acquire Panathinaikos soccer club «at the right moment.» Fans have been urging him for years to do so.

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