Maroussi Athens will join home side Unics Kazan in the FIBA Europe League final on Saturday, after beating Hapoel Tel Aviv. The Greeks put on a remarkable 5-minute display in the third quarter in which they turned a 9-point defecit into an 11-point advantage and took Tel Aviv totally out of the game.
Hapoel Tel Aviv Head Coach Erez Edelstein said that he had “no idea” what happened to his team in the 3rd quarter. Whatever the reason behind it, the result was his team completely losing its composure and ultimately, the game.
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Into the second period, the two sides discovered their touch. Maroussi‘s Andre Hutson found his range while Ivan Grgat asserted himself under the basket. The result was a 27:24 period in favour of Maroussi, but they still trailed 41:37 at the half.
Tel Aviv began the third quarter strongly. Jasmin Hukic followed a missed shot with a dunk giving the Israelis a 45:54 lead and seeming control of the contest. However, a three-point shot from Vassilis Spaneoulis sparked a remarkable 26:0 run for Maroussi.
Spaneoulis is just 21 years of age but already the captain of this Maroussi side. He showed his qualities today, leading by example and scoring 15 second half points (and 11 of the 26 in the run) to repeatedly energise his team.
While Maroussi could do nothing wrong, Tel Aviv were rattled and could simply not reply. At the end of the third, Maroussi led 68:54 and were in complete command of affairs.
Although the game was not over, Tel Aviv were broken in the face of the Maroussi run and did not threaten to make a comeback in the final quarter.
Spaneoulis was the high man for Greece and he led the side with 21 points (5/7 three-points) and 5 assists. The young guard did not yet play for the senior Greek team, but based on tonight’s performance he will be a lock to make the Olympic team.
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Ivan Grgat provided the inside muscle and finished the game with 15 points, while George Karagoutis added 14.
Yaniv Green scored 18 points for Tel Aviv and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. Jasmin Hukic scored 15 points, but made just 1/8 three-pointers.
Panagiotis Yiannakis, Head Coach, Maroussi Athens:
“We knew that this was a strong Tel Aviv side. My team anticipated this and started nervously. They made some mistakes, missed some easy baskets and played bad defense.”
“We had a lack of concentration and in the first half Tel Aviv controlled the game which made it difficult for us to pull back. In the second half we played great defense, grabbed lots of defensive rebounds and made them make mistakes.”
“This win was easier than expected.”
“I’m very proud of team. We may not have such big names but we showed that we work hard and believe in ourselves and we can produce great results like tonight.”
“I look forward to another great game on Saturday.”
Erez Edelshtein, Head Coach, Hapoel Tel Aviv
“This was a very physical game. Maroussi are a little more experienced than us and used the momentum they created in the third quarter to win the game.”
“20 points is not the difference between these two teams. This was our biggest loss this season. I’m very disappointed with this performance, especially the third quarter, and the result.”