AEK kept its hopes alive for a crack at this season’s national basketball title by defeating Olympiakos 85-78 at its home stadium last night to reduce the best-of-five final series to 2-1. To remain in contention, AEK must overcome the Piraeus side a second consecutive time to level the series when the two teams meet again on Sunday before Olympiakos’s home crowd at their home Peace and Friendship Stadium in Faliron. Going into the encounter a troubled side after back-to-back defeats – as was underscored by coach Dragan Sakota’s decision to terminate the contract of guard Chris Carr following his team’s second defeat – AEK rebounded to prove more formidable. Disappointed by their team’s showing in the first two games, a mere 2,500 AEK fans turned up at the OAKA stadium. Contrary to the lackluster level of play in the first two games, the finalists provided a far worthier spectacle yesterday. In a tightly contested match, the two sides went into the game’s last quarter tied at 56-56, before AEK kicked in in the final 10 minutes of play to take the game with a seven-point margin. AEK led 23-22 and 39-37 at the end of the first two quarters. Exciting play in the first quarter saw both sides take turns sharing the lead. This pattern continued throughout the second quarter. With three pivotal players, all foreign signings, spending considerable time on the bench, AEK had to rely on its domestic talent to stay afloat during critical phases. For the winning team, Andrew Richard Betts and Dimos Dikoudis topped the scoring with 19 points apiece. Alphonso Ford was Olympiakos’s top scorer with 22 points.