PAOK had to battle for all 40 minutes to edge already-eliminated visitors EiffelTowers Den Bosch 90-88 in Thessaloniki, Greece on Tuesday and keep its chances alive to reach high in Group D. PAOK, already qualified for the elimination rounds, improved to 6-3 and could even tie for the first place in the Group D table before the night ends. Meanwhile, EiffelTowers dropped to 2-7 despite a great effort to rally from a 15-point first-half deficit. Jason Parker paced the winners with 21 points, making 9 of his 11 two-point shots. Blagota Sekulic and Drago Pasalic each added 14 points. Sekulic grabbed 14 rebounds while Pasalic pulled down 10 for respective double-doubles. Giannis Kalampokis had 11 points and Vlado Scepanovic 10 for PAOK. Leon Rodgers had 19 points for the EiffelTowers, Travis Young added 15 and Johannes Akerboom 10. PAOK led 28-13 early in the second quarter, but Rodgers rallied EiffelTowers for a 42-45 edge at halftime. It all came down the final 2 minutes, in which a corner triple by Kalampokis and free throws by Sekulic, Kalampokis and Pasalic allowed PAOK to save the victory.
PAOK started the game at full speed, with good balance between the backcourt and the inside game, and didn't allow the visitors to sniff the lead. Jason Parker, Drago Pasalic and Vlado Scepanovic scored easily as the hosts managed to create a ten-point margin early in the game, 13-3. PAOK kept leading in double digits without much trouble until a Pasalic dunk opened a 13-point gap at the end of the first quarter, 26-13. At the beginning of the second, Scepanovic scored to make it 28-13, but EiffelTowers didn't quit at all and tried to get back in the game. When PAOK head coach Kostas Pilafidis decided to give some rest to his starters, Randy Wiel called Sharone Wright from the bench in what proved to be a turning point. Wright added height for the visitors, and though he scored only 2 points, changed the scenario of the game. Rodgers caught fire then and EiffelTowers followed him on a 0-13 run over 6 minutes that cut the margin to 28-26. PAOK answered with a 6-0 spurt to make it 34-26, but the visitors blasted back with some big three-pointers. The capped a 4-14 run with a three-pointer by Travis Young that gave EiffelTowers their very first lead at 38-40. Dimitris Verginis scored from the arc to put PAOK back in front, 41-40, but Rodgers scored a layup and Paulus Frederiks sank another triple as EiffelTowers would not be denied a 42-45 advantage at the end of the first half.
As the teams returned to the court for the third period, Young scored another three-pointer and Eiffel Towers soared ahead 42-49. Then PAOK reacted. Led by Parker and Kalampokis, the hosts used a 7-0 run to tie at 49-49. The visitors didn't panic and with Frederiks scoring from the arc led again by 52-57 after 25 minutes. PAOK played better perimeter defense now and at the same time emphasized the inside game on offense, going to Pasalic and Sekulic. With newcomer J.R. Bremer hitting a three-pointer in the last play of the third quarter, the hosts had a 16-6 run over 5 minutes and were now ahead by 68-63. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Scepanovic opened the margin to 70-63. Soon, Sekulic dunked for a nine-point lead, 74-65, but EiffelTowers proved that they were too hard to die. Johannes Akerboom, son of legendary Kees Akerboom, hit a three-pointer to cut the difference down to 74-70. PAOK responded with a quick 5-0 spurt to make it 79-70, but the hosts didn't maintain concentration, so the visitors took advantage once again. After Sekulic scored to make it 81-73, Young and Sam Jones combined on 7 consecutive points as Eiffel Towers cut the margin all the way to 81-80. In that crucial moment, Kalampokis made the play of the game, downing a three-pointer for 84-80 before he added 2 free throws to give PAOK a six-point lead, 88-82. Marcel Aarts and Leon Rodgers brought the visitors within 2 points again, 88-86, but with 6 second to go, Pasalic made 2 for 2 from the foul line to seal the victory.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007