| One of the oldest basketball clubs in the world reached its furthest point ever in European competition when Panellinios BC of Greece made the Eurocup Finals on Tuesday despite a 75-68 road loss at Gran Canaria 2014 in Spain. Panellinios nonetheless won the two-game series on the strenghth of its 11-point home victory in Game 1, giving it an aggregate series win of 4 points. Gran Canaria was leading the game 70-56 and the series by 3 points with 3 minutes remaining, but a Devin Smith triple and 8 of 8 perfect free throws by him, Roderick Blakney and Georgios Kalaitzis made the difference and let Panellinios advance. Panellinios will play Bizkaia Bilbao Basket in one semifinal in Vitoria-Gazteiz, Spain on April 17 for the chance to reach the title game the next day. On Tuesday, Gran Canaria got 17 points from Jaycee Carroll, 12 from Melvin Sanders and 10 from Sitapha Savane to get the win. Panellinios was led by Rodney Blakney with 15 points. Kostas Charalampidis added 14 points, including 3 three-pointers, while Chris Owens had a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds and Devin Smith scored 11.
Two of Gran Canaria's long-serving veterans, Savane inside and Jim Moran from long range, got the hosts a quick 5-0 lead. After Vougioukas and Djuro Ostojic got Panellinios close, Moran opened the gap again with his second triple at 10-4. By the time Carroll hit free throws and Will McDonald joined the fun with a basket, it was 14-4. The hosts offset Panellinios free throws with layups by McDonald and Josh Fisher at 18-7, meaning that Gran Canaria was tied in the series. But then Charalampidis stepped on the court and buried a triple for the guests. Before the quarter ended, he added free throws to cut the difference to 20-12 after 10 minutes. The visitors carried their momentum into the second quarter as first Chris Owens and then Charalampidis launched and landed shots from the arc. Charalampidis got fouled and made a four-point play of his, while Owens followed with a layup good for a 20-21 lead after a 2-14 run. Gran Canaria reacted with defense, including a rejection of the next triple try by Charalampidis, and with Sanders, whose back-to-back shots from downtown pulled the hosts in front by 26-21. Ostojic answered inside for Gran Canaria, but Sanders would not be denied and drilled again from the arc to make it 29-23 and force a Panellinios timeout. Charalampidis again sparked the visitors from downtwon, while Vougioukas made it 29-28 inside. Marcus Norris and Savane answered for Gran Canaria with the next 6 points, and after a basket by Rodney Blakney, the hosts locked down their defense more, going ahead 39-30 on free throws by Augustine and McDonald. After a timeout, Panellinios got an all-important basket back from Ostojic to cut the difference to 39-32 at the half.
It was a basket-by-basket battle going into the second half as Carroll started heating up for the hosts, while Owens did so for Panellinios. When Norris joined Carroll in back-to-back three-pointers midway through the third quarter, the hosts had a 49-37 lead and Panellinios needed timeout. Owens again rescued the guests, with a three-point play and an additional layup to trim the difference to 51-43. Tomas Bellas came out of nowhere with a triple for Gran Canaria, but Smith took a two-point from it as the hosts led 54-45 after 30 minutes. Carroll's basket to open the fourth quarter made it 56-45, those 11 points being the magic number now, tying the series at that moment. Gran Canaria seemed to be ready to surge to the finish as free throws by Moran and back-to-back shots by Bellas suddenly had the hosts ahead by 17 points, 64-47, with 5 minutes left. That's when Blakney steadied Panellinios with 7 consecutive points, layups bookending a monster three-pointer, to lower the margin to 12, 66-54. A fourth three-point strike by Sanders revived Gran Canaria, but Charalampidis, Smith and Blakney combined on a 2-7 burst to make it 71-62, putting Panellinios in the series lead again with 2 minutes to play. After a tense, scoreless minute passed, Smith went to the line and made 2 of 2. Carroll tried to rally Gran Canaria, but Blakney and Kalaitzis were also perfect from the line, leaving the home fans disappointed and Panellinios on the way to the semis.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010