Panathinaikos put an end to Olympiakos’s unbeaten run this season to win 67-59 in the Greek Cup semifinal between the two Greek giants on Monday and book a spot in the final against Aris at Iraklio on February 9, after the Thessaloniki team defeated Panionios 88-79 on Sunday.
Despite having a patchy record so far this season, host Panathinaikos produced a solid performance that for once was not focused on shooting three-pointers, but played a slow game that was based on a tight defense and on shooting from the paint.
The Greens led for the majority of the knock-out game as Olympiakos’s shooters were on a rather bad night, while the hosts welcomed back from injury Jonas Maciulis and Nikos Pappas, who played key parts in the game at the Olympic Sports Hall.
Panathinaikos made the most of its supremacy in rebounds and led 20-13 just before the end of the first period. Olympiakos produced then a partial 11-1, but the host responded with a 11-2 score to end the first half with a one-point advantage (35-34).
A rather barren third period, where passion eclipsed quality, saw Panathinaikos retain its slender lead (45-44) in a quarter when Olympiakos Vassilis Spanoulis mostly sat out.
Eventually the combative character of the hosts – boosted by the capacity crowd and led by a mesmerizing Stephane Lasme who fought for every single ball – saw them open an eight-point gap (61-53) that allowed Olympiakos no way back, even though the Reds have numerous times this season come from behind to win.
Aris is returning to the final of the cup after nine years after upsetting the odds and beating Panionios in Thessaloniki thanks to the momentum it gained from its fantastic support at the Nick Galis Hall.
The Yellows led virtually throughout the game, the last that coach Vangelis Angelou sat on the Aris bench, as on Monday he announced he has been poached by Euroleague challenger Anadolu Efes of Turkey.