Behind all game and still down 8 points with less than 5 minutes left, Cibona VIP rallied for its first Euroleague road win since 2002 by beating AEK 73-75 on Thursday in Group A. Andrija Zizic was the hero, hitting a two-meter shot at the buzzer to keep the game from going to overtime. The last time Cibona won on the road was also against AEK on December 14, 2002. This victory boosts the Top 16 chances of Cibona, which took over second place at 6-4 with the victory. Zizic's shot also stopped AEK's three-game winning streak, dropping the Yellows into a three-way tie for fifth place at 4-6. Scoonie Penn led the winners with 20 points, while Zizic and Jurica Golemac added 13 each. Cibona had trailed by as much as 12 points late in the third quarter. For AEK, Quadre Lollis led the charge with 19 points, while Nikos Hatzis added 15 and Adrea Glyniadakis 12.
Despite the absences of various injured players, AEK was really aggressive in the beginning, racing to a quick 18-7 lead in just 5 minutes. Jenkins was the sharpshooter, scoring 5 points until then, but AEK also used its strength inside, where Andreas Glyniadakis scored 4 points and Quadre Lollis gave important help. Meanwhile, Hatzis caught fire with Jenkins from three-point range. With another triple and a pair of free throws from Hatzis, AEK took its biggest lead yet, 23-11, while Cibona struggled to score at all. Four whole minutes passed without a point for the Croatians, and at the end of the quarter, only Penn, Rimac and Golemac had points. Another big three from Lollis and AEK had doubled the visitors, 26-13, at the end of the first quarter.
Once of AEK's injured players, Christos Tapoutos, made a surprise entrance in the second quarter, when despite a 3-2 zone employed by Cibona, Jenkins and Hatzis continued to rack up points. After Hatzis scored 5 more, the lead was back to double digits at 33-22 after 24 minutes. Penn was trying on his own to bring Cibona back to the game, reaching 11 points in the first 15 minutes of the game, but another 5-0 run from AEK meant the game's biggest lead thus far, 37-23. Lollis and Panteleimon Papaioakeim soon extended it to 40-25 with free throws. AEK not only tried to conserve the lead, but boosted it even further on a triple by Sotiris Nikolaidis, plus free throws from Glyniadakis and Lollis, to a high of 19 points, 46-27. Time was left, however, and Cibona used it to score 7 unanswered points that cut the deficit to 12 and closed the half with 46-34 on the scoreboard.
Cibona started the third quarter furiously, determined to change the situation. With a triple by Golemac and a basket by Andrija Zizic, the visitors dropped the deficit to 7 points, 46-39, almost a third of what it had been minutes earlier. The Croatians where back in the game for good. Glyniadakis was the man for AEK in this difficult time, scoring 6 consecutive points to build the lead back up to 54-42 after 27 minutes. The enthusiastic AEK's fans played a role in helping their team resist Cibona, but the game was a derby now anyway. With new baskets from Penn and Golemac, Cibona cut the lead again to 6 points, 54-48, but before the quarter could end, AEK struck back. A run with 2 baskets by Tapoutos another from Papaioakeim kept the hosts ahead 60-51 after 30 minutes.
Cibona started rallying to begin the final quarter, as Barica Krasic's first basket of the game was a triple and Golemac added a two-pointer for a sudden 60-56 scoreboard reading. AEK looked tired and Golemac took advantage with a basket-plus-foul to reduce the difference to just a point, 60-59! But then it was Quadre Lollis time. The AEK forward made consecutive baskets to beat the shot clock, one a big three-pointer that let AEK breathe at 65-59 with 5 minutes left. Lollis was also exhausted, and while he went to the bench to rest, Hatzis scored his first basket in the second half to make it 67-59. Cibona was still ready to fight, however. A basket from Penn was followed by another triple from Krasic and like that it was a three-point game again, 67-64. AEK's hero the previous week, GeorgiosTsiaras, scored again now and Jenkins added a pair of free throws, but Cibona wouldn't be denied. A three-pointer by Josip Sesar, free throws from Krasic and another basket from Zizic tied it up, 71-71. Next, Penn's own pair of free throws gave Cibona its first lead, 73-71, entering the final minute. Tsiaras committed a turnover at AEK's offensive end, then stole from Cibona but stepped out of bounds, giving the visitors the ball. Kus missed a shot and with 5 seconds left, Krasic fouled Sotiris Nikolaidis, who made both his free throws to tie it 73-73. In the game's last second, however, Zizic scored from a distance of 2 meters to complete a comeback that gave its first road win of the Euroleague season.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Kostas Sotiriou, Athens