Panathinaikos cruises to final

Defending champion Panathinaikos cruised to the final of the A1 league playoffs last night after beating Panionios 98-75 for a 3-0 win in their best-of-five semifinal series. In the other semifinal, Olympiakos took a 2-1 lead against Maroussi with an 85-69 win, also yesterday, following a defeat at Maroussi in Game 2. Panathinaikos began explosively to lead with a score of 14-0 after three minutes. By the end of the first term, Panathinaikos was leading 34-21 courtesy of an impressive six-from-six three-point shots. Panionios gradually regained its composure and troubled the hosts until the start of the third term. Panionios actually held a 51-49 lead at halftime but was unable to sustain the pressure following the break. Panathinaikos led 69-63 at the end of the third term and was never threatened from then on. Former Panionios player Stratos Perperoglou, who joined Panathinaikos last summer, led the scoring for the Greens with 17 points. Kennedy Winston, another ex-Panionios player, scored 14 points for Panathinaikos. Bouncing back from a defeat last Tuesday, Olympiakos proved too strong for Maroussi, a surprise semifinalist, for its 16-point win. The hosts held the lead at the end of all four terms (18-13, 42-31, 57-48, 85-69). Olympiakos and Maroussi meet again this Sunday with Maroussi as host in Game Four of their semifinal series. Playmaker Roderick Blak-ney, the top performer for Olympiakos last night, led the scoring with 22 points. Blakney was also on target with four from five three-point shots. Panathinaikos, last season’s European champion for a fourth time in the club’s history, has dominated the domestic league with nine A1 league title wins over the past decade.