Archrivals face-to-face in basketball cup final

Current holder Panathinaikos, winner of the Greek basketball cup for the past three seasons, reached its fourth consecutive final last night with a 76-70 away victory against downtown Athens club Panellinios. In the other semifinal, played later in the evening, newly appointed Olympiakos coach Panayiotis Yiannakis made his debut with a tight 72-70 victory over visiting Thessaloniki team Aris, where he starred as a player in the 80s and early 90s. Quite ironically, in the final, Yiannakis will now lead Olympiakos against Panathinaikos, where he ended his playing days in 1996, captaining the Athens side to the first European title ever won by a Greek team. Last night, Olympiakos trailed for most of the game. Aris built up a 12-point lead, 43-31, at halftime, which had been whittled to five points by the end of the third period. Olympiakos managed to overtake Aris late in the game to take its berth in the Greek Cup final, scheduled for March 29. Panathinaikos, a major contender for back-to-back European titles, as well as the favorite for the domestic league trophy, seemed content to save energy and stretch itself only when necessary for yesterday’s semifinal win. Panathinaikos controlled the game throughout and held solid leads, ranging from six to 11 points, at the end of all four periods. Lithuanian Sarunas Jasikevicius, Panathinaikos’s best performer last night, was the game’s top scorer with 21 points.