Nestoras Kommatos has proved to be Aris' best player and leader this season in the FIBA Europe League. In the first game of the series against Anwil, he lived up to that role, scoring 32 points and guiding Aris to an away win.
Kommatos set the tone early as he scored 15 first quarter points, including 3 three-pointers. It was enough for Aris to earn a small lead and after 10 minutes they led 24:27.
Aris center Ryan Stack assumed scoring duties in the second quarter as he hit for 8 points. His presence under the boards also helped to spark the Aris fast break, allowing the Greek team to rack up some easy points. By the break, they led 45:54.
Anwil needed a change of tactic to try to get back into the game and after halftime they switched to zone. It had exactly the desired effect, and they soon pulled level. However, Aris remained poised and soon regained control.
|Nestoras Kommatos (left) and Donatas Zavackas|
As well as Kommatos, Smush Parker had another good game for Aris. In his last FEL outing he nearly registered a triple double and earned MVP of the Week honours (he had 28 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds). This time around he flirted with a quadruple double and finished the game with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 13 assists and 7 steals.
Anwil star Armands Skele struggled scoring just 10 points, 5 under his season average. Donatas Zavackas and Dusan Bocevski stepped up for the home side, hitting for a combined 33 points, but it was not enough to prevent the loss.
Although this the first season of the FIBA Europe League, as winners of last season’s Champions Cup, Aris Thessaloniki are the de facto champions. This year the Greek side have had a more difficult competition and a win in their final game over Polish side Polonia Warbud saw them qualify to the play-offs. The addition of US guard William “Smush” Parker in December was a key one for the team, and he has averaged 18.6ppg and 5.6 apg since his arrival.
Anwil have been consistent than their Greek counterparts and cruised to a 9:3 record and first place in Group B. Both teams have been among the best in their domestic leagues and occupy 3rd place in the standings of their respective countries.
Aris Thessaloniki is one of the most decorated clubs in all European basketball. Under the legendary Nick Gallis and Panagiotis Yiannakis (who is currently coaching Maroussi) they qualified for 3 consecutive EuroLeague Final Fours in 1988, 1989 and 1990. They won the EuroLeague title in 1993, a Korac Cup in 1997 and the Champions Cup in 2003.
Anwil have also been regular partipants in Europe, reaching the semi-finals of the Saporta Cup in 2002 (they lost to Spanish side Valencia) as well as the quarter-finals in 2001.
|Nestoras Kommatos has been Aris' best player so far in the FEL|
He will need to find his top form against Anwil’s powerful center Sharone Wright. Wright arrived just after the halfway point of the season and has led the team in rebounding (7.7rpg) and is second in scoring at 11.4ppg.
At a total of 83 ppg, Aris outscore their Polish opponents by 8 points per contest. More importantly, the Greek side have shown that when it really counts, they can light up the scoreboard quickly. Their highest scoring game of the season was also the most vital, as they hit Polonia for 111 points in a must-win contest that saw them qualify to the play-offs.