Panathinaikos pounces to final

Panathinaikos, winner of seven of the last eight basketball league titles, advanced to this season’s final with a 79-72 win over Thessaloniki club Aris on Sunday for a 3-0 win in their best-of-five semifinal series. The defending champion must now await the outcome of the other ongoing semifinal series between archrival Olympiakos and Maroussi, which the former leads 2-1 after an 81-62 victory, also played Sunday. The opponents meet tomorrow at Maroussi’s home stadium in what could be the deciding game should Olympiakos emerge victorious. If the home side wins to tie the best-of-five series at 2-2, then a fifth and final game will be needed later this week. «This is no time for relaxation. We must go into the fourth match just as spirited. We won the third game because we played liked a team and did exactly what we planned to do,» noted Olympiakos coach Jonas Kazlauskas. «We need to continue like that,» the Lithuanian added. Maroussi captain Giorgos Karagoutis expressed confidence that his team could tie the series at 2-2 tomorrow, «as long as we stick to the plans carried out at practice.» Commenting on his preference for a fellow finalist, Panathinaikos’s Slovenian guard Jaka Lakovic said he would rather take on archrival Olympiakos, which last made the final in 2002 but lost to AEK. «That way the league title will acquire greater value for us,» said Lakovic, referring to the prospect of defeating Olympiakos. «I think Olympiakos is the favorite. The club has played well this season and deserves to make the final,» added Lakovic, who has yet to confront Olympiakos in a final series during his four years at Panathinaikos.