Panathinaikos takes the lead

Defending champion Panathinaikos took a 1-0 lead against archrival Olympiakos in their best-of-five final series for the A1 basketball league title with an 83-79 home win on Saturday. The game was tight throughout and Panathinaikos did not secure victory, at its OAKA arena, until the final seconds of play. The result could have been different had Giorgos Printezis not missed from close range in the closing stages to level the score. The finalists meet for Game 2 tomorrow at Olympiakos’s Peace and Friendship Stadium. Panathinaikos began pro-misingly, taking a 17-8 lead at the end of the first quarter as Olympiakos appeared to be intimidated by the hostile home crowd. The visitors, however, fought back to reduce the deficit to 38-36 at halftime. The two-point difference was maintained at the end of the third term, 60-58 in favor of Panathinaikos. Sarunas Jasikevicius led the scoring for Panathinaikos with 22 points. For Olympiakos, Sofoklis Schortsanitis overcame a knee injury to score 13 points in the 15 minutes he played. In the first game of the series to determine Greece’s third Euroleague representative next season, Maroussi, the season’s surprise team, launched its bid with a 67-60 win at Panionios. On its way to this battle, Maroussi, which began slowly but rebounded in the second half of the season, eliminated the formidable Thessaloniki side Aris in the quarterfinals and pushed Olympiakos to a fifth encounter in the semifinals. «Congratulations to my players for their passion despite the fatigue and problems,» said Maroussi coach Soulis Markopoulos, referring to his team’s recent five-game battle against Olympiakos and the absence of leading players due to injury. Panionios is a fast team with a loaded roster. We have to be cautious in the upcoming games.» Maroussi hosts Panionios in Game 2 tomorrow.