BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Never say die: Lithuanian legend Sarunas Jasikevicius was the MVP of the Greek Cup final, leading Panathinaikos to yet another trophy|
Death and taxes are two certainties in life.
Panathinaikos claiming a trophy in Greek basketball is another.
The Greens, one of the dominant forces in men's hoops for more than a decade with league title triumphs every season since 1998 except one (2002), prevented rivals Olympiacos from capturing a third straight Greek Cup at the weekend.
PAO won the Final, 71-70.
Trailing by as many as 13 points late in the third quarter, Sarunas Jasikevicius led the Panathinaikos comeback.
Jasikevicius, who had 10 points, claimed another prestigious honor in his amazing career by being named as the game's MVP.
"I am very happy," Jasikevicius said.
"It was the first title of the year. It was a very difficult game and after the third period, we were behind."
The comeback started when the Lithuanian buried a three-pointer from the left wing.
Ian Vougioukas then dunked and was fouled.
He sank the free-throw and the Olympiacos lead was nine.
The Greens continued to chip away.
When Romain Sato came up with a steal, Kostas Kaimakoglu shortly after went up for a lay-up to reduce the arrears to 58-53.
Dimitris Diamantidis made a free-throw line jumper to cut the Reds' lead to 58-55.
Olympiacos steadied themselves, however, and went back up by nine.
Jasikevicius brought Panathinaikos back again, though.
He penetrated and dished to Vougioukas, who dunked to cut the deficit 68-63 with 6:16 to go and Kostas Tsartsaris drilled a three-ball from the right corner to reduce the deficit to two.
"At times, there was so much difficulty," Jasikevicius said.
"Defensively, we were able to get some steals ..."
With the score knotted at 70-70 and 40 seconds to go, Olympiacos were still in a good position.
Olympiacos forward Georgios Printezis had a wide-open look from the left wing and tried to make a three-ball but he was too slow getting into his shooting motion and Mike Batiste blocked the attempt.
Then Dimitris Diamantidis made one of two free-throws to put Panathinaikos on top.
Kostas Papanikolaou ended up with a chance to win the game at the death for Olympiacos with an attempt from behind the arc but Batiste again came to the rescue on defense, getting a hand in his face.
The Greek international missed and fell down, but no foul was called.
Panathinaikos celebrated another famous moment in their history.
Zeljko Obradovic's team does not have much time to celebrate.
They have three Greek domestic league to get ready for, as well as the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Quarter-Finals.