SPORTS

Aris looks good for next round

Aris defeated Turkish basketball club Fenerbahce Ulker 86-80 in Istanbul last night to bolster its position in the Euroleague’s Group C and become a prime contender for a place in the competition’s next stage. Last night’s win, the Thessaloniki club’s first away from home in this season’s Euroleague, helped fifth-place Aris break two wins clear of its nearest rivals, including Fenerbahce, in the eight-team group. Aris has a 4-4 record after eight rounds of play. The Greek team’s nearest rivals, Fenerbahce and Eldo Napoli, have won two group games and lost six. Aris could find itself tied in third place before the week is over, with the completion of Group C’s other encounters. The Turkish team now needs to strike a winning run in order to get back into contention for a qualifying berth. The same goes for Italian club Eldo Napoli, an 82-72 loser last night against group frontrunner and defending champion CSKA Moscow. The top five teams from the competition’s three groups, as well as the sixth-placed side with the best record, advance to four groups of four teams. From there, the top two teams of each group will carry on into the quarterfinals. This season’s Euroleague Final Four tournament, scheduled from May 4 to 6 in the new year, will be staged in Athens. Aris and Fenerbahce fought a tight a game until midway through the third quarter. The Greek visitor then charged ahead. Terrell Castle struck with the first two of five Aris triples in as many minutes to establish and hold on to its promising lead. Aris led by six points at the three-quarter break, and maintained this lead for the final 86-80 score. The teams were locked, 39-39, at the half-time break, and the game was still even, 45-45, after 25 minutes, with no indication of an approaching blitz from Aris. Aris center Mike Wilkinson led the Thessaloniki club with 24 points, accumulated by a nine-from-11 record for his two-point shots, as well as four rebounds and five assists. Jeremiah Massey followed for Aris in the scoring with 15 points, while Savvas Iliadis’s personal tally reached 12 points, all scored in the final quarter of play. For the Turks, Ibrahim Kutluay was the top scorer with 22 points. Willie Solomon, back from injury, contributed a further 16 points for Fenerbahce. Group A’s joint leaders Olympiakos and TAU Ceramica were due to go into battle for top spot later last night in Vitoria, Spain. In Group C, Panathinaikos, the competition’s only undefeated team going into the eighth round of group competition, hosts third-place DKV Joventut tonight in Athens. A narrow 90-88 win for Panathinaikos last week against Maccabi Tel Aviv made the three-time European champion the only club to reach the midpoint of the Euroleague’s regular season undefeated this decade. Panathinaikos goes into tonight’s game three games clear of its nearest rivals, Maccabi, DKV Joventut and Cibona, all with four wins and three losses.