2000-01PlayoffsGame 7
April 07, 2001 CET: 19:00
Local time: 19:00 FERNANDO BUESA ARENA
Well, as they say in the home of Tau Ceramica: 'Gloria Vitoria!' To reach the Euroleague Finals is more than anyone could have asked of Tau when its season started, perhaps even when these playoffs started. But that's exactly what 9,500 rabid fans in Vitoria, Spain got on Saturday night as Tau relied on its incredible versatility to beat AEK 76-62 in Game 3 of their semifinal. This time Tau was led by its big men center Victor Alexander, power forward Fabricio Oberto and supersub Luis Scola who combined for 46 points and led a 39-26 rebounding advantage. It was Tau's seventh consecutive win in a remarkable Euroleague playoff run. They started all three series on the road against pillars of Greek basketball, and they not only won everywhere, but won the replay of Game 1 of this series after a disputed final basket had given AEK the victory. Although AEK has again protested that game with the Euroleague, Tau is considered the finalist as of the end of Game 3. The Euroleague Finals begin Tuesday, April 17, in Bologna, Italy against Virtus Kinder, who defeated Paf Bologna 3-0 in the other semifinal.

A star was born in Scola, the 21-year-old power forward, whose quick pivot moves the AEK big men just could not keep up with. Scola made the big offensive plays in the middle quarters and finished with 15 points off the bench to go with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. One of those assists came on the first of a pair of three-point plays by Alexander in the decisive 8-0 run that boosted Tau's lead to 70-52 early in the fourth quarter. Alexander, who seemed to clear every rebound early, but encountered foul trouble, finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds. And as if those two efforts weren't enough, the third member of that troika, Oberto, did everything else necessary, finishing with 15 points and 9 rebounds.

But to mention only scorers is to ignore half the strength of Tau. Relentless defense, in particular by swingman Laurent Foirest on AEK sharpshooter Ibrahim Kutluay, who was held to 18 points because he was only allowed to receive the ball every so often. Foirest drew more charges (2) than he had baskets (1), and made 6 assists. The other key ingredient was Chris Corchiani, whose 15 minutes coincided with Tau inching into control. Indeed, both starting point guard Elmer Bennett and Alexander were on the bench as Tau put the game away. One of Bennett?s 6 assists, however, to Scola on a slipped screen, was one of the game's finest plays. It not capped a 6-0 run that gave Tau a 50-38 lead midway through the third quarter, but demonstrated again how resourceful Tau was on offense. Of Saulius Stombergas, the Game 1 replay hero for his 39 points, Tau needed only his normal 13-point output to finish off the series.

The first half had done justice to the best quality of this series: its competitiveness. AEK marked some territory early, with 17-year-old Nikos Zizis in the starting lineup. His mission was clear as he fouled Stombergas the first time the Tau forward touched the ball. Stombergas indeed did not score for a whole quarter, in fact, his first three-point attempt produced an airball. But neither did Kutluay get hot either, as both teams worked to establish an inside game. Mostly, that meant triple-pivot moves before bankshots by AEK center Andrew Betts (6 points) and fadeaways by Alexander for Tau. Niether team could get away from the other and the quarter ended 16-16 on another shot by Alexander, who also pulled 6 rebounds in the quarter.

At that pace, it took Tau several minutes, Stombergas's first basket and a defensive shutout to to get as much as a 24-18 lead midway through the quarter. That went up to 27-20 a couple of minutes later as Stombergas turned a reverse layup into a three-point play. But sooner still, Kutluay was nailing his first three-pointer and Martin Muursepp followed with a fastbreak dunk. Like that, it was a two-point game again, 29-27. Stombergas capped a 10-point quarter with one more basket, however, and Corchiani hit 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch to leave it at 34-27 Tau at the half.

The opposing forces trying to gain control after halftime were Betts, with three pretty baskets, and Stombergas, who rose up and nailed his first three-pointer. But here came another Tau defensive clampdown leading to a 7-1 run and Tau's first double-digit lead at 44-34. AEK's last real run finished with two Demos Dikoudis free throws that made it 44-38, but that?s when Bennett and Scola made two foul shots each and connected on that pretty layup. A three-pointer by Kutluay was answered with one by Corchiani and Tau finished the third quarter leading 54-44. The handwriting was on the wall. They were dancing in the aisles in Vitoria the whole fourth quarter.
Saturday, April 7, 2001
Euroleague.net
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Referees: STOKES, RICHARD (ENG), NOWICKI, MAREK (POL), LOVSIN, ANDREJ (SLO)
Attendance: 9323
By Quarter1234
Tau Ceramica16182022
AEK Athens16111916
End of Quarter1234
Tau Ceramica16345476
AEK Athens16274662
Tau Ceramica
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
4 SCOLA, LUIS 19:48 15 6/9   3/4 1 2 3 2 2 1     3 5 19
5 GARCIA, DANIEL 2:35     0/1                       -1
6 BENNETT, ELMER 29:44 6 2/7 0/2 2/2       6   4     3 3 1
7 FOIREST, LAURENT 26:53 2 1/1 0/2     4 4 6 1 3     2 2 8
9 VIDAL, SERGI 3:05 2 0/1 0/1 2/2                   1 1
10 TIMINSKAS, MINDAUGAS 19:34   0/2 0/1   1 4 5     1     3   -2
11 STOMBERGAS, SAULIUS 24:52 13 3/5 1/2 4/4   1 1 1 1 3     4 6 12
13 ALEXANDER, VICTOR 29:21 16 7/10   2/2 1 7 8 1         4 4 22
14 OBERTO, FABRICIO 28:11 15 6/7   3/5 3 6 9 2 2 1 1   4 4 25
15 CORCHIANI, CHRIS 15:57 7   1/2 4/6   1 1   2       2 4 9
Team             3 3   2           5
Totals 200:00 76 25/42 2/11 20/25 6 28 34 18 10 13 1 0 25 29 99
        59.5% 18.2% 80%
Head coach: IVANOVIC, DUSKO
Min: Minutes played; Pts: Points; 2FG M-A: 2-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); 3FG M-A: 3-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); FT M-A: Free Throws (Made-Attempted); Rebounds: O (Offensive), D (Defensive), T (Total); As: Assists; St: Steals; To: Turnovers; Bl: Blocks (Fv: In Favor / Ag: Against); Fouls: Cm (Commited), Rv (Received); PIR: Performance Index Rating
AEK Athens
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
4 STEFANOV, VRBICA 27:14 6 3/4 0/3     1 1   2       5 2 2
6 HANSELL, STEVEN 16:44 8 0/2 2/4 2/2       2   2     1 2 5
7 ZISIS, NIKOS 16:01 4 2/3 0/1     2 2         1 2 2 3
8 HAMMINK, GERRIT 8:51           2 2     1     1    
9 CHATZIS, NIKOLAOS 12:13 2 0/1 0/2 2/2       1         2 2  
10 KUTLUAY, IBRAHIM 33:06 18 1/3 3/5 7/9   2 2 1 1 4     4 5 13
11 DIKOUDIS, DIMOS 15:27 4 1/4   2/2           2     4 2 -3
13 MUURSEPP, MARTIN 26:41 8 3/7 0/4 2/2 1 3 4   1       5 2 2
14 BETTS, ANDY 29:01 10 5/9   0/1 2 7 9 2   1     2 5 18
15 KAKIOUZIS, MICHAILIS 14:42 2 1/1 0/2   2 2 4           3 2 3
Team           1 1 2     1       1 2
Totals 200:00 62 16/34 5/21 15/18 6 20 26 6 4 11 0 1 29 25 45
        47.1% 23.8% 83.3%
Head coach: IVKOVIC, DUSAN
This game has no play by play yet

Head Coaches

IVANOVIC, DUSKO
Tau Ceramica
"From the beginning of the season, we've prepared a good, hard defense. But the key to these triumphs has been our mentality. Just look at Chris Corchiani, playing several games now with a hernia. He has always used his attitude to change the tempo of the game. With him, there is an intensity created that has helped us every time. What Tau has done - and we're not finished yet .. has been very important for Spanish basketball."
IVKOVIC, DUSAN
AEK Athens
"Tau has been the better team, I congratulate Dusko Ivanovic and all of his players. They have been better. There have been different reasons that have impeded us from winning, but I don't want to make excuses, because Tau has been the better team. As for this game, it was a tough one by both teams, but in the first half, wer were playing good and hard, working inside well, and shooting 12 three-pointers without reason hurt us."

Players

ALEXANDER, VICTOR
Tau Ceramica
"I'm very happy with what happened, very happy with the fans, and very excited to play the Finals. And of course we have possibilities, despite losing to Kinder twice in the regular season."a
CORCHIANI, CHRIS
Tau Ceramica
"My ambition when I signed with Tau was to play in an important organization that could aspire to play the Euroleague Finals The public has always supported me and appreciated me. I don't have words to describe what I fee right now. Tau doesn't have any superstars. But we all sacrifice a lot for the team. We are a puzzle that always comes together."
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