Back in the Euroleague

Spurred on by a frenzied capacity home crowd in Thessaloniki, Aris powered its way to a comfortable 73-60 win against Panionios in last night’s best-of-five series decider for third place in the Greek basketball league and a berth in next season’s Euroleague. The Thessaloniki club will compete in Europe’s leading club-level basketball competition for the second successive season after a lengthy absence. The home team never seemed threatened in last night’s encounter, as highlighted by its increasing lead at the end of the first three periods. Aris enjoyed leads of 21-11, 42-26 and 60-42 before slowing down, slightly, for the 73-60 final score. The game had all but been determined by the end of the third period. Sensing that its chances of recovery were slim after a poor first half, Panionios showed some improvement in its defensive play in the third term. The Athens club’s shooting accuracy also improved. It all brought Panionios to within 13 points in the 25th minute. But the home side did not let Panionios reduce the deficit any further. A 7-0 run from Aris helped it to re-establish a commanding 20-point lead a little before the third-quarter break. Guard Dimitris Tsaldaris, who was instrumental in Aris’s explosive start for an early advantage, led his team’s scoring with 18 points. Kennedy Winston, one of Panionios’s few consistent performers last night, was the game’s top scorer with 21 points. Tonight, defending champion Panathinaikos hosts Olympiakos in their best-of-five title series decider. Police have taken strict security measures. Concerns are high following fatal brawling earlier this year between fans of the two clubs on the sidelines of a women’s volleyball game involving the two teams. Panathinaikos’s 17,000-capacity OAKA Stadium will remain half-empty. Large sections of the stands will not be used to keep rival fans at a distance. Panathinaikos was allotted 6,500 match tickets and Olympiakos, as the guest, received 2,500.

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