PAOK Thessaloniki earned a berth in the ULEB Cup elimination rounds with a thrilling 80-82 away win over Dexia Mons Hainaut on Tuesday in Mons, Belgium. The victory saw PAOK raised its record to 5-3 in Group D, while Mons remained at the bottom of the table with a 1-7 record. The results guarantee that PAOK will finish the regular season in one of the top four spots in the group, all of which will advance to the next stage. Darius Washington led four PAOK scorers in double figures with 18 points, while Blagota Sekulic added 17 points and 6 rebounds, Vlado Scepanovic chipped in 15, Drago Pasalic contributed 10 points and 6 rebounds and the go-to-guy, Ioannis Kalampokis, netted 8. Kevin Houston tallied 17 with 7 boards to lead Dexia Mons-Hainaut, George Evans drained 16 with 5 assists and Shawnta Rogers amassed 14 with 6 assists.
Evans started on fire to boost Mons on a early 4-0 lead, but Sekulic soon tied for PAOK at 6-6. Both teams' shooters started well and were trading baskets with Scepanovic and Pasalic scoring for PAOK and Rogers for the hosts, as his bombs to put Mons in front 16-14 with three minutes left in the first quarter. Five straight points from Houston pushed the hosts further ahead before Evans capped an 8-2 run. In the last minute of the period, Sekulic and Houston exchanged easy points to finish 25-20 for Mons. Kalampois and Jim Potter swapped shots before Scepanovic converted a three-point play to tie the game at 28-28. Back-to-back triples from Dragan Markovic and Rogers excited the crowd and pushed Mons ahead again, 37-30. Jason Parker highlighted a 7-0 PAOK run to tie the score once more, and then Pasalic put PAOK ahead for the first time, 42-43. Yemi Nicholson gave another slim lead to the hosts, but Parker hit the layup to put PAOK up 46-48 at halftime.
Back from the lockers, Mons looked transformed and used a 13-4 run, highlighted by 4 points from Houston and capped by Bingo Merriex's jumper to build a 59-52 cushion. The guests answered by increasing their defensive pressure and finding easy points with Washington and Sekulic making a 7-0 run and once more tying the game at 59-59. Merriex put Mons on top 61-59, but Washington beat the third-quarter buzzer to put again his side ahead 61-62 after 30 mintes. Scepanovic opened the last quarter with an amazing basket from beyond the arc to give PAOK a 61-65 lead, but a 10-0 Mons run, highlighted by Markovic from long distance, changed the lead again, putting the home team ahead 71-65 with six minutes left. Washington scored 5 consecutive points as the visitors climbed within 1. Pasalic then heated up with 5 quick points to put PAOK up 73-75. Houston and Evans twice tied the score for the hosts, but Kalampokis gave a his team an 80-82 cushion with seconds left in the challenge. The hosts called timeout to plan the last shot, but Markovic would miss the potential game-winning triple as PAOK triumphed and celebrated its qualification to the elimination round.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006