Panellinios BC took over sole possession of second place in Group K on Tuesday by holding off Benetton Gioco Digitale with an 88-79 victory at home in Athens, Greece. The victory lifted Panellinios to 2-1 in the group, a victory behind undefeated Bilbao and one ahead of Brose Baskets halfway through the round. Benetton dropped to 0-3 and faces a difficult road to survival now. The Panellinios defense made the difference after Benetton suddenly rallied to within 77-75 with 3 minutes left on a burst of scoring by Davor Kus. Benetton's scoring basically stopped there as Panellinios pulled away at the free throw line late. Veteran guards Kostas Charalampidis and Manolis Papamakarios paced the winners with 19 points each, the latter downing 5 of 8 three-point tries. Ian Vougioukas followed with 18 points, while Joshua Davis had 15. Solid 30-for-36 free throw shooting made was key for the hosts. Benetton got 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists from Gary Neal, while Kus scored 13 and C.J. Wallace and Kelvin Rivers 12 each, and Donatas Motiejunas 11.
Panellinios went inside to Vougioukas and Davis for a quick 4-0 lead. Benetton cut into with a triple by Neal and eventually tied 8-8 on another by Rivers. Panellinios surge ahead again, however, as three-pointers by Roderick Blakney, Davis and Papamakarios made it 19-12. Benetton wouldn't be denied, however, and followed Wallace on a 2-10 run to take a 21-22 lead on free throws by Daniel Hackett. Charalampidis added his own foul shots before the first quarter ended with all the promise of a long, hard battle as Panellinios led 23-22. Vougioukas sparked the hosts again with a triple to open the second quarter, but Jasmin Hukic - just back from injury - matched it for Benetton and Motiejunas put the visitors ahead again. The veterans Charalampidis and Papamakarios took the lead back for Panellinios at 36-32 and were joined by another, Djuro Ostojic, maintaining it at 40-34. Wallace tried to rally Benetton with 4 points in a row, but Vougioukas reappeared to stretch the difference to 47-40 for Panellinios at halftime.
Benetton's teenage talents, Motiejunas and Alessandro Gentile started their team's response after the break, but Vougioukas answered before Papamakarios and Blakney stretched the lead to 57-49 from long range. The Benetton defense locked in just then, however, while Neal, Gentile and especially Hukic, with 5 points himself, climbed back to a 57-57 tie. Although Charalampidis again buoyed Panellinios with a quarter-ending basket-plus-free throw, it was anybody's game at 60-57 heading into the final quarter. Dueling triples by Charalampidis and Rivers kept the tension high as the fourth quarter started. Davis reappeared for the hosts for a layup-plus-free throw then stepped out and buried what was a back-breaking three-point shot at 69-60. After Wallace hit free throws for Benetton, Papamakarios launched from deep and raised the lead to double-digits, 72-62. Kus answered from the same distance for the visitors, then proceeded to go wild, with free throws preceding 2 more bombs from downtown to suddenly put Benetton back in the game, 75-73 with 4 minutes left. Papamakarios and Rivers traded baskets before a tense couple minutes of defense yielded two 1-for-2 trips to the free-throw line by Vougioukas. By the time Charalampidis went back to the line and hit a pair, Panellinios could breathe easy at 81-75 already in the final minute. Neal lengthened the suspense with a three-point play, but free throws down the stretch preserved the victory for the hosts.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010