Olympiakos dig deep for Euroleague upset

By Zoran Milosavljevic ,Reuters

ISTANBUL — Olympiakos Piraeus staged a magnificent fourth-quarter fightback to win their second title in Europe’s premier club basketball competition with a dramatic 62-61 victory over favorites CSKA Moscow on Sunday. Trailing 53-34 midway through the third quarter, the Greek outfit looked devoid of energy but clawed their way back into the match with an 18-2 rally which put them within touching distance in the closing stages. CSKA forward Ramunas Siskauskas then missed a pair of free throws before forward Georgios Printezis scored on the buzzer and threw 5,000 Olympiakos fans into raptures in a jam-packed Sinan Erdem Arena. It was also the second Euroleague title for Olympiakos’s Serbian coach Dusan Ivkovic, who steered them to their last major trophies during his first spell in charge in 1997. Olympiakos have had precious little to cheer about since they won the Greek and Euroleague titles 15 years ago, having played second fiddle in both competitions to bitter city foes Panathinaikos Athens. Their win over CSKA was also a bitter blow for Panathinaikos fans, who taunted their outnumbered rivals throughout the gripping Final Four in Istanbul. Having lost to CSKA in Friday’s semi-final, Panathinaikos were also beaten by Barcelona 74-69 in the third-place playoff earlier on Sunday as Brazilian guard Marcelinho Huertas poured in 21 points for the Spanish side.

Panathinaikos supporters left in a hurry after the final as the jubilant Olympiakos faithful, galvanized by incessant and noisy drumbeats in their section, had to be restrained from invading the court at the end of a memorable evening.

Power forward Kostas Papanikolau led the winners with 18 points, the tournament’s most valuable player Vassilis Spanoulis scored 15 and Georgios Printezis chipped in with 12.