Raimonds Vaikulis was the key player of this game, leading Ural Great to a very important 86-76 win in Thessaloniki against ARIS, increasing the Russians’ hopes of finishing first in group C of the FEL 2003-2004.
At the start of the game, ARIS tried to take advantage of center Likholitov and play in the paint, resulting in a 17-13 lead in the first 8 minutes. The entrance of Lavrinovic into the game, taking Jones’ spot, gave a softer style of play to the Russians, bringing the visitors a 23-37 advantage by the 15th minute.
The replacement of Goldwire by Vetoulas gave ARIS a fresh outlook on the game, and also a way to come back. The result was the Greeks took back the lead, 44-42 in
|Fedor Likholitov had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Aris|
the 22nd minute and until the 29th minute the 1000 fans witnessed what could have been a pure derby, with the score right before the end of the 3rd 58-58. Ural Great Coach Belov’s use of Pashutin as a playmaker, and his persistance with Vaikulis, were the deciding factors that led to the 76-86 win for the Russian club.
After the game, Sergey Belov admitted that “we knew that it would be a difficult game, but also that ARIS was not in the best form after their consecutive losses. This is something we took advantage of, especially in the second half, with Vaikulis as a key player”. Michael Johnson admitted that his team “achieved an important win that will help them in the future”.
On the other side, Mr. Alexandris Vangelis stated that “we lost to a better team, which had more choices on the bench. We tried very hard, but did not last until the end to get the win”. It is also important to state that he gave a special thank you to the fans which have supported the team with much passion, despite the consecutive losses. Ryan Stack, disappointed by the final score but not the team’s performance stated “we tried for the best, but unfortunately we did not make it. We are, however, a very good team with a good coach and good players, and we need some time to find our rythmn. I believe that its only a matter of the first win”.
MVP of the game - Raimonds Vaikulis, BC Ural Great