Aris TT Bank has ridden its homecourt dominance to a share of third place in Group C after it downed visiting Zalgiris 73-66 on Thursday in Thessaloniki, Greece. Aris is now 3-3 and will be tied with either Pau-Orthez or Benetton Treviso at the end of Week 5. Zalgiris falls into dangerous territory at 1-5 with the halfway point of the regular season coming next weekk. Aris took control from the start, racing ahead 20-8 in the first quarter never trailing the entire game. Jeremiah Massey was dominant again for Aris, dropping 21 points and pulling 13 rebounds. Alex Scales followed with 20 points while Terrell Castle scored 13. Zalgiris got 20 points and rebounds off the bench from Hanno Mottola. Marko Popovic added 15 points and Paulius Jankunas 13 for the visitors, while Tanoka Beard hauled down 11 rebounds. Zalgiris shot 10-for-18 in free throws.
In front of a packed house, the tandem of Massey and Scales sparked the hosts to a 10-6 lead in little more than 3 minutes, forcing an early Zalgiris timeout. Nonetheless, former Aris shooter Simonas Serapinas showed his old team his stuff by knocking down a triple to which Massey added free throws, widening the lead to 15-6. Popovic found Tanoka Beard for a layup, but the guests could not find any rhythm offensively due to 0-for-4 shooting so far from beyond the arc. That was not the case with Scales, who brought the crowd to its feet with a triple. On the next possession, Terrel Castle stole the ball and scored on the break to make it 20-8 after 7 minutes played. With Zalgiris being dead offensively and Massey dominating in the paint, Aris exploded to a 27-14 lead after 10 minutes on a jumper by veteran Mahmud Abdul-Rauf.
In the second quarter, Zalgiris picked up its defensive intensity and soon got back-to-back baskets by Paulius Jankunas and Kirk Penney to pull within 27-18. Scales came up with the answer, another three-pointer, for Aris, but Jankunas and Vidas Ginevicius helped their team break out of a terrible shooting phase, igniting an 0-8 run that sliced the difference to 30-26. At the other end, Scales was clearly on fire still, nailing his third triple to end the Aris drought and boost the margin to 33-26. The guests lost their composure and Aris marched on a 6-0 spurt capped with a basket by Massey. Mottola picked up the scoring slack for Zalgiris but he only managed to trim the lead to single digits, 41-32, at intermission. Scales and Massey had contributed 32 points of the Aris total, while Zalgiris was 2-for-11 from downtown so far.
The second half got underway with Popovic single-handedly turning it into a two-point game, 41-39. Massey muscled his way for a basket and then a triple by Serapinas allowed Aris to breathe. Nevertheless, the momentum began to shift, as Mottola and Popovic put on a shooting display and fuelled a 3-12 run that helped Zalgiris to grab the lead, 51-53 after 28 minutes. Castle responded with a jumper, Popovic turned the ball over and experienced Giorgos Sigalas fed Michael Wilkinson for an easy layup on which Aris reclaimed the advantage, 55-53. When Popovic slashed to the basket but failed to tie, Wilkinson went down the other end and converted a three-point play, rousing the fans as Aris took a 58-53 edge into the final 10 minutes.
Giorgos Kalaitzis opened the fourth quarter with a steal and a three-pointer, whereas Zalgiris kept turning the ball over. After Jonas Maciulis scored near the basket, both teams were locked for a while in a battle at 62-56, until Massey grabbed an offensive rebound and downed the basket. Boosted by a boisterous crowd, Aris flashed some stiflin defense to keep Zalgiris without a basket for almost 5 minutes. When Jankunas finally made one, Aris had already built a solid 67-60 lead with 2 minutes to go. Aris was on the driver's seat, yet Popovic was not willing to cave in: his triple got the guests within 67-63. The heroics were not to be, however, as Massey grabbed the decisive offensive rebound, Castle hit a a pair of free throws, Serapinas stole and Scales finished a fastbreak to put away the victory.
Thursday, November 30, 2006