Comeback is complete as Panathinaikos wins group

Panathinaikos beat Italy’s Benetton Treviso 81-70 on Wednesday in a night that none of the 17,500 fans who filled the Olympic complex’s basketball arena will forget in a hurry. The Greek champion advanced to the Euroleague’s quarterfinals as first in its group, thanks also to the victory of Efes Pilsen of Turkey at Cibona Zagreb. The Greeks, therefore, completed their impressive comeback after losing their first three games in this second group stage to top group G, as all four teams finished even on points. Treviso actually led several times in the first half, which finished 34-34, but after the first 5 minutes of the second half they could only watch as Vangelis Spanoulis and Jaka Lakovic scored again and again to give the Greeks a nine-point lead at the end of the third period in front of a deafening crowd. When the news of the Turks’ victory in Croatia came in, opening the way for Panathinaikos to top its group, the roar in the arena got louder as the hosts cruised to victory in the end. Panathinaikos, as well as Olympiakos, have now qualified to the round of eight starting next week. The greens will clash with Spain’s Tau Ceramica in a best-of-three playoff starting in Athens on Tuesday and enjoying home advantage should the series get tied at 1-1. Olympiakos will not have home advantage, as it finished second in its group. Its opponent in the quarterfinals will be either Real Madrid or Maccabi Tel Aviv.