|11 February 2013|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Panathinaikos' Dimitris Diamantidis added another feather to an already full cap on Sunday|
Panathinaikos and Montepaschi Siena have ruled their respective corner of the Mediterranean with an iron fist for the best part of a decade and that continued on the weekend.
This year, it was supposed to be different. In the summer, both clubs underwent major roster changes, parted ways with their long-serving coaches, Zeljiko Obradovic and Simone Pianigiani respectively, and had to make do with recession-era budgets.
Fans in Athens and Tuscany were effectively warned not to expect titles this season, and certainly not take them for granted any more.
Luckily for them, the winning spirit that by now makes up part of the DNA of both clubs, and the big players infused with it, remains.
Both sides proved that on Sunday, by successfully defending the domestic cup titles they had won last season on either side of the Adriatic.
Panathinaikos edged out arch-rivals Olympiacos to conquer their fourteenth Greek Cup while Siena defeated Cimberio Varese in the final of the BEKO Final Eight to claim their fifth consecutive Coppa Italia Trophy.
PAO hit the ground running and built a 12-point advantage over the reigning Turkish Airlines Euroleague champions midway through the first quarter.
They kept firm control of the encounter throughout the first half and maintained an 11-point lead at half-time.
The Greens seemed completely unfazed by the heavy defeat they had suffered to the Reds in league action just last Monday and stayed calm and composed, despite a one-hour pause to the game that was provoked by disturbance in the stands.
When the big clash resumed, with the stands in Elliniko Arena empty, Olympiacos started chipping away at the gap and took their first and only lead of the night on a Kostas Sloukas three-pointer with less than three minutes remaining on the clock.
Consecutive big plays however by Greek legend Dimitris Diamantidis and Croatian maestro Roko Leni Ukic, who were both excellent on the night, restored order.
They gave their team a three-point advantage that the Greens held on to until the final buzzer, after Vassilis Spanoulis missed a desperation three-point shot at the death.
A typically ice-cool Diamantidis made all 12 of his shots from the charity stripe and finished with 19 points and seven assists, while Ukic was instrumental in imposing the tempo, adding 18 points and four rebounds.
F.Y.R. Of Macedonia captain Pero Antic went four-for-six from three-point range and had 17 points and eight rebounds for Olympiacos in a losing effort.
SIENA HOLD TIGHT IN CLOSE FINISH
Meanwhile in Milano, Siena took Varese by storm straight out of the gates and led 23-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Siena further widened the gap to 17 points towards the end of the third frame and by the time Varese managed to mount a challenge during the final stanza, it was too little too late and they simply reduced the deficit.
The Tuscan side held on to clinch a 77-74 victory behind solid performances by backcourt duo, Bobby Brown and Daniel Hackett.
Brown once again had a great night from downtown and hit five of his seven three-pointers to collect 25 points, adding four assists, while the Italian international Hackett finished with 17 points, two rebounds and two assists.
Mike Green of Varese led all scorers with 29 points in defeat.
Siena came close to not even reaching the final and probably would have not done so were it not for an inspired display by Hackett a day earlier.
They were trailing Banco di Sardegna Sassari by four points in their Saturday semi-final clash when the guard decided to take it upon himself to bring them to the title game.
He hit all four of his shots from the field and both of his free throws in the final quarter, scoring 12 of his team-high 19 points and also adding three assists in that period alone.
Siena came back to win 85-78 and punch their ticket, while Varese had earlier on the same day defeated Roma 81-71 to reach the final.