CSKA proves too strong

Olympiakos, Greece’s sole survivor in the Euroleague, bowed out of the competition last night after losing 81-56 at CSKA Moscow. The victory handed the Russian club a 2-1 win in a best-of-three quarterfinal battle and a berth in the Final Four for a record sixth successive time. No doubt vigilant following a shock loss in the opening game of the series in Moscow last week, CSKA, the 2006 champions and a hot favorite for this season’s European title, began strongly to establish a 41-29 lead at halftime. It was an advantage the Russians never jeopardized throughout the game. Thodoris Papaloukas was instrumental in CSKA’s first-half breakaway with eight points and three assists to his name at the end of the second quarter. The Russian hosts began the third term emphatically to grab an early 15-point lead. Two quick three-point shots from Olympiakos forward Panayiotis Vassilopoulos brought his team to within nine points, which was about as close as the Greek team managed to get. By the end of the third term, CSKA held an 11-point advantage, 61-50. CSKA continued to control the game in the final term and the Piraeus team’s diminishing hopes of a late surge were dashed when Vassilopoulos, Olympi-akos’s leading performer last night – and top scorer with 17 points – was substituted by coach Panayiotis Yiannakis midway through the last term, when he committed a fourth foul. CSKA forward Ramunas Siskauskas, who was on target with five from six three-point shots, led the scoring for the Russians with 24 points. Though last night’s defeat was heavy for Olympiakos, the Piraeus club, which last reached the Final Four nine years ago, has recently shown signs of better days, ever since Greece coach Panayiotis Yiannakis’s midseason hiring by the club. In the Round of 16, Olympiakos looked finished after losing its first and second of six games, but four consecutive wins secured the Greek team a quarterfinal place at the expense of Real Madrid. Tau Ceramica was due to host Partizan later last night with their quarterfinal series tied at 1-1. Maccabi and Barcelona do battle in their decider tonight in Tel Aviv. Italian club Siena was the first team to reach the Final Four with a 2-0 win over Fenerbahce last week.

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