Efes Pilsen avenged an earlier home loss and kept pace to finish third in Group A on Thursday when it recovered from a bad start to defeat AEK in Athens 64-81. Now 8-5, Efes needs only to beat Pau-Orthez at home or see Skipper Bologna lose against Cibona in their last regular season games in order to finish third behind Benetton Treviso and Barcelona. Efes was down by 14 points in the first quarter to AEK, but turned on the defensive heat and held the hosts to just 43 points in the last 33 minutes of the game. Marcus Brown led all scorers with 26 points, while Kaspars Kambala added 21 for Efes, who also had Antonio Granger and Alper Yilmaz score 10 points each. Meanwhile, Demos Dikoudis was AEK's leading scorer with 17 points, followed by Nikos Hatzis with 16.
Despite the absence of newly-signed but injured guard Joe Crispin, AEK had a tremendous first period, outscoring Efes 21-12. The Yellows based their game on Dikoudis, who had 11 points in 10 minutes and led the way to a lead of 14 points, 21-7, late in the first quarter. Now came the Efes reaction, however, and it was complete. Alper Yilmaz hit 2 big three-pointers midway through the second period and the Turks had their first tie, 28-28. Within a minute, Kasparas Kambala had taken the law into his hands with 4 consecutive points for the first Efes lead, 28-30.
Kerem Tunceri followed with a three-pointer to make it 28-33. Fortunately for the home fans, Nikos Hatzis had AEK's answer in the form of back-to-back three-pointers that tied the score again, before Efes got an extra point for a 39-40 lead at the half. Dikoudis was leading all scorers with 13 points then, while Kambala followed him with 12 points and great performance under the boards for Efes.
AEK looked like winners for awhile as Hatzis hit 2 more threes to give his team an eight-point lead, 51-43, midway through the third period. But 7 straight points by Granger soon had Efes in charge again at 55-58. Then, with a combined 18 points in the last quarter, Brown and Kambala co-signed the victory. The two players were extremely hot and their momentum helped Efes Pilsen escape by 14 points, 64-78, a minute before the end of the game. For AEK, only Dikoudis managed to make some baskets during the last period. AEK fell to 1-12.
Thursday, February 6, 2003