The upset that Tau Ceramica started in Game 1 was completed before its home fans in Vitoria, Spain on Wednesday with a 81-68 victory over Peristeri that isgood for a trip to the Euroleague quarterfinals. In those quarterfinals, which start on Feb. 21, Tau will face Olympiakos, a 84-96 winner at Muller Verona. Game 2 ended as Game 1 did, with a three-pointer - two, in fact - off the smooth right hand of Saulius Stombergas. Those six points in the final two minutes sealed the game for Tau, and made Stombergas his team's top scorer with 20 points, two behind Alphonso Ford and Alexis Zevrosenko, who had 22 each for Peristeri. Tau had struggled to pull away all evening and led only by five, 56-51, headed into the fourth quarter.
My players deserved this victory, because we've been better in both games," Tau coach Dusko Ivanovic said. "If you work seriously, with you heart, you always get something out of it. This is a small reward. My players deserve more. We'll see how far we can go now."
All eyes were on Ford, but it was Peristeri center Alexis Zevrosenko who took up the charge in the first 10 minutes. He took it to the Tau big men and came away with 10 points in the quarter most of those before either of the first-game heroes, Ford or Tau's Saulius Stombergas, had more than a basket. As a matter of fact, the first basket by Stombergas, a backdoor reverse layup, forged a 15-15 tie late in the quarter. But that was followed by Ford's second shot to land, a three-pointer from the top of the circle. Neither team would let the other escape yet, however and Stombergas had to finish off the quarter with four more points to give the home team a slim 21-20 lead.
Tau had its first run to start the second quarter, pulling ahead 31-23 on a Stombergas three-pointer that gave him 12 points, too. There hadn't been much success from the perimeter to that point, as the teams only managed to hit 1 of 9 three-point attempts between them. The game was being battled on the inside, and despite the good lead, first-game leader Fabricio Oberto now committed his third foul for Tau and had to sit down for the rest of the quarter. That helped Peristeri stay competitive on the boards and pull back within 37-34 at the half as Ford's personal total started to rise.
He already had 15 points when he opened the second half with a pair of jumpers, followed by five consecutive points from center Fabio Ribeiro and Peristeri was within 45-43. That's when fouls started to become important. Oberto picked up his fourth before the midway point in the third quarter, Stombergas followed with his fourth, and then center Victor Alexander caught his. All three had to go to the bench, as did first Ribeiro and then point guard Byron Dinkins for Peristeri. Elmer Bennet drew both on Dinkins, then nailed a three-pointer and two free throws to jack up the lead to 53-48. But with two tries on the last possessions, Ford slipped a double team and hit Zevrosenko underneath for a dunk, foula nd free throw that pulled Peristeri within 53-51. With four seconds left, however, Tau's Laurent Foirest escaped up the sideline and flicked his wrist for a three-point swish. The lead was back at five, 56-51, going into the final quarter.
That lead was at nine after Tau scored the first two baskets and Peristeri committed three turnovers to start the fourth quarter. But a three by Costas Trartsaris cut it to 62-59 before Tau took off again, with Bennett leading the way, to lead by 72-63 with 3 minutes left. But here came a three-pointer by Manolis Papamakarios, then he forced a turnover from Bennett. But on that possession, Mihalis Pelikanos missed a dunk, just as Trartsaris had a couple minutes earlier. When Stombergas got his chance with a three-pointer at the other end, he didn't miss. As it went through, Tau's lead ballooned to 75-66 and Peristeri was out of the playoffs.
Wednesday, February 7, 2001