Aris TT Bank took a giant step towards its dream of a Top 16 qualification when it downed Group C direct rival Eldo Napoli 80-72 at home in Thessaloniki, Greece on Wednesday. Aris started 2007 right, reestablishing homecourt dominance to boost its record to 5-5 to share fourth place with Pau-Orthez Just as important, Aris sent Napoli down to 3-7 and covered the difference from their first game, won by the Italian team. Jeremiah Massey had another huge performance for the winners, with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Alex Scales added 17 points and Mike Wilkinson 10, while veteran Giorgios Sigalas came up with 6 assists and 3 steals for Aris. Ansu Sensay was the big gun for Napoli, with 20 points, while Jay Larranaga added 16 and Tyrone Ellis 15. The visitors used 12 three-pointers to stay within striking distance into the second half, but Aris used a 13-1 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to take over completely.
Michel Morandais of Napoli used his athletism to create room for a jumper that was the game’s first basket. After Massey tied, both teams shared some scoring difficulties; the visitors insisting on shots from outside, while Aris missed opportunities inside. Larranaga of Napoli and Scales finally connected with a triple each to make it 5-5. Larranaga kept firing, first making a layup in traffic and then connecting from behind the arc to give himself 8 points within 5 minutes. Scales answered back with his second three-pointer, however, to tie it up, 10-10. Aris continued to play up-tempo as baskets by Giorgos Sigalas and Scales made it 14-10. Wilkinson boosted the Aris run to 9-0, before Sesay nailed a triple at 16-13. Scales fed Massey for an impressive dunk but Tyrone Ellis scored Napoli's fourth triple so far to make it 18-16. Mahmut Abdul-Rauf and Scales helped Aris close the first quarter in style with a 22-16 lead and Scales already having scored 10 points.
Sesay connected for 5 straight points and also blocked Abdul-Rauf's shot to help Napoli cut the difference to 23-21 early in the second quarter. Aris coach Andrea Mazzon used a lineup with three big men, Giannis Giannoulis coming off the bench to play alongside starters Massey and Wilkinson - and it paid dividends. Aris found now points in the paint from Giannoulis and Massey to reestablish a solid lead at 29-22. Jeff Trepagnier put an end to Aris's 6-0 run, but soon Giorgos Kalaitzis connected for the hosts to make it 31-24. Savvas Iliadis added a triple that allowed Aris to build its biggest difference yet, 35-26, however Rocca beat the buzzer for Napoli to send the teams to the break with a 37-30 scoreboard.
Sigalas nailed the three-pointer to up the Aris margin to double figures for the first time, 40-30, right after the break. Wilkinson increased it to 42-30, but Larranaga popped from the arc for Napoli. Three-pointers allowed Napoli to stay close as Sesay added another at 44-36. Aris kept running the floor with Massey and Wilkinson finishing a couple of quick attacks to make it 48-36. Sesay and Ellis answered back for the visitors at 48-40. Baskets were coming easy now for both teams as Massey and Scales for Aris, Larranaga and Ellis for Napoli found the way to the net for a 55-45 scoreboard. Ellis and Sesay again proved the men for Eldo as their baskets cut the difference to 55-49. However, Aris was the team to save the third quarter’s last word as Kalaitzis, Scales and Massey boosted the hosts to a high lead of 61-49 after 30 minutes.
The fourth quarter started with 2 scoreless minutes that Massey ended with a good basket-plus-free throw good for a 64-49 advantage. A great defensive effort by Sigalas led to his third steal and a no-look assist, his fifth, as Aris sailed ahead 66-49. Aris did not slow down; Wilkinson finished another fast break at 68-50 before Ellis scored Napoli'sninth triple. When the guests managed to cut the margin to 70-57, they tried a full-court press. Ellis chipped in a triple to get them as close as 74-62 and with under 3 minutes left, Larranaga added another triple to bring the guests within single digits at 74-65. Abdul-Rauf answered them, driving for a basket to break Napoli's comeback momentum as Aris sealed a 80-72 win that also covered the difference of its loss in Italy in their first game.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007