Aris surviving a battle to the finish, 65-60 over Benetton
Aris moved closer to a Top 16 berth in its first Euroleague season by surviving a battle to the finish, 65-60 over Benetton in Group C at soldout Alexandrio Melathron Arena in Thesaloniki, Greece on Thursday. Aris and Benetton each have 6-5 records now to share third place in Group C with Pau-Orthez. Terrell Castle returned from injury to post 22 points and pull 8 rebounds for the winners. Alex Scales added 17 points, including key ones in the final minutes. Savvas Iliadis came off the bench for 10 points while Mike Wilkinson recorded 11 rebounds to go with 5 steals and 5 points. For Benetton, Angelo Gigli scored 14 points mostly on dunks, while Marco Mordente added 12 and Terrell Lyday 10. Thessaloniki native and Benetton guard Nikos Zisis was given a warm applause before tipoff and scored 10 points, all in the first half. Benetton had control for three quarters, but suffered a crucial scoring black-out in the final period posting just one point in 8 minutes as Aris took advantage to regain the lead and hold it through the final buzzer.
Each team missed its first couple of opportunities before Castle and Zisis openned the scoring with jumpers at 2-2. Soon, Castle nailed a triple from the corner, but then Lyday exploded for 5 consecutive points to put the guests ahead at 5-7. When Benetton head coach David Blatt ordered zone defense, Aris was ready to feed the ball inside to Wilkinson, who connected for a 7-7 tie. Zisis drove to score and then popped a long jumper to make it 7-11 for the guests, as he and Lyday shared all of Benetton's points so far. Aris wasn't much different; when Castle nailed another shot from behind the arc and then connected from the foul line, Aris had a 12-11 lead and he had all but 2 of the points for the hosts. Benetton was now finding its way to the free throw line and soon Aris did so, too, until Savvas Iliadis came off the bench to chip in a fadeaway jumper and seconds hit the buzzer-beater that shot the hosts ahead 20-15 at the end of the first quarter.
Lyday nailed Benetton's first three-pointer in five tries to open the second quarter. Giannis Giannoulis connected inside for Aris, but soon the scoring slowed. Benetton used offensive rebounds - five so far- to get close and the tie it up, 22-22. Aris was nursing just one basket through 5 minutes of the second quarter before Massey connected with a nice reverse layup. Joey Beard grabbed another offensive board to give Benetton the lead at 24-25, so when Marco Mordente nailed a jumper and Angelo Gigli dunked, the guests were up 24-29. Lyday, from the line, boosted Benetton's run to 8-0 before Scales stepped up to change the momentum by connecting twice in the row from behind the arc for Aris, tying it up again at 30-30. Wilkinson blocked Gigli, who reacted with a monster dunk on the next possession, and Zisis nailed the last shot of the half to let the guests go to the lockers ahead by 30-34.
Mordente and Castle exchanged triples to start the third quarter. Marcus Goree found a difficult jumper to make it 34-39 as Benetton seemed to have control of the game tempo. Gigli kept on dunking with force as Aris went more than 2 minutes without scoring. Finally, Castle popped from the line at 41-35 and Giorgos Sigalas helped the Airs defense force Benetton iinto mistakes. Still, the guests again found offensive boards, with Spencer Nelson now making it 35-43. The hosts did not give up, though. Castle fired in his fourth triple and then dished the ball to Massey for an impressive dunk-plus-free throw that cut the difference to 41-43. Mordente reacted with an easy layup in the paint for Benetton, but Scales fired in another three-pointer to make it 44-45. Gigli found room for his fourth dunk in the game and later on added a hook as Benetton managed to hold onto a 46-49 edge after 30 minutes.
Iliadis took a good back-door pass from Sigalas to get Aris started right in the final quarter. Indeed, when Iliadis added another layup, the hosts regained the lead at 50-49 and forced a Benetton time out. Both teams fought for every single possession as things got tougher and tougher on court. Lyday tied it 50-50 with a free throw, but seconds later had to go to the bench after fouling out with his fifth personal. Iliadis stole the ball twice now, while Castle poured in yet another triple to make it 53-50. Scales drove for a basket and made the free throw that came with it, making the Aris fans go crazy in the stands as the lead reached 56-50 with less than 3 minutes still to play. The hosts kept on pressuring the perimeter as Benetton struggled to create opportunities. Finally, Gigli dunked to record Benetton's first basket after 8 minutes in the final quarter, however, Scales again took charge with a steal and a fastbreak layup to make it 59-52. When Castle was accurate twice from, from the line, Benetton had no time left to turn things around.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Christos Lazarou, Thessaloniki