Panathinaikos won its 19th Greek Cup in basketball on Sunday, defeating PAOK 79-73 at Iraklio in a close game that was balanced till the end. This was coach Rick Pitino’s first title in Europe.
Four days after the Olympiakos walkout in their semifinal on Wednesday, the Greens had to work hard to overcome the unexpectedly strong resistance of PAOK as their frailties were exposed by the Thessaloniki team.
Despite advancing by 19 early on (27-8), Panathinaikos lacked the focus required in a final and was absent in offensive rebounds in the first half. PAOK, on the other hand, was overflowing with passion and managed to make its three-point shooting supremacy offset the passing quality of the Greens, to bring its deficit down to six (31-25).
After the first half ended 46-36, PAOK continued its fightback and deservedly snatched the lead with a 61-59 score. Pitino’s Panathinaikos reacted to advance by four (65-61), only for PAOK to lead for the last time at 70-67. Eight unanswered points by the Greens practically settled the final in their favor as the experience of Panathinaikos made the difference.
Nick Calathes received the Most Valuable Player award having registered 19 points, five rebounds and nine assists. Keith Langford added another 17 for Panathinaikos.
William Hatcher was the final’s top scorer with 23 points for PAOK. Vangelis Margaritis made 13 for the Thessaloniki club.
Remarkably Panathinaikos has been winning at least one trophy for the last 24 seasons. This was also the first final for PAOK in all competitions in 20 years.