Two teams that might have finished in each other's places except for a single shot in their previous game ended the Group B regular season even after Union Olimpija defeated visiting AEK 70-66 in Ljubljana on Thursday. Olimpija had a final record of 6-8, good for only seventh place, not good enough to make the Top 16 from this group. AEK, at 7-7, fell down one place after a three-way tie for fourth place with Montepaschi Siena and Scavolini Pesaro was broken. Dusan Bocevski led Olimpija to victory with 20 points. Darren McClinton, with 6 of the last 7 points in the game, followed with 14 total, while Marino Bazdaric added 10 for the winners. Sandro Nicevic led AEK with 20 points, while Nikos Hatzis popped for 13 and Toby Bailey for 12.
Defenses were so dominant early that the triple that Ozbolt hit to start the game proved to be Olimpija's only points for a full 5 minutes. AEK wasn't much better, but used 6 points from Hatzis and a three-point play by Bailey to hold a 5-11 lead. Nicevic walked on-court and immedately added a three-point play for AEK, then got to the line again for free throws and a 7-16 lead. Only a three-pointer by its own sub, Darren McLinton, let Olimpija as close as 10-16 after 10 minutes.
Olimpija's defense dominated the early second quarter, allowing 3 points each by Dusan Bocevski and Bazdaric, his on a shot from the arc, to cut the difference to 16-17. AEK's drought ended with a shot by Michalis Pelekanos from the arc, but after an exchange of free throws, McClinton popped his second triple to make it 21-22. Bocevski tied at 23-23 with a layup and Bazdaric took the lead back with a free throw. Ozbolt and Bazdaric would add three-pointers before halftime to finish an 18-6 run with Olimpija in charge at 34-27, trimmed by Hatzis and Nicevic to 36-31 at the break.
AEK struck first in the third quarter, pulling within 36-35 on a bucket by Nicevic. Bocevski single-handedly kept Olimpija ahead, 43-39, with 6 points throught he middle of the quarter, but his technical foul and 3 of 4 free throws made by Toby Bailey cut the difference down to a point, 43-42. Those two pushed and pulled at the lead for their teams until Vladimer Boisa pushed the hosts ahead 50-48 with 4 points in a row to which Bocevski tacked on a triple for a 54-48 Olympia advantage after 30 minutes.
AEK got within 3 points a couple times early in the last quarter, but waited a few minutes until Nicevic's dunk and a drive by Bailey tied 60-60. Another tie came before Hatzis finally put the guests back in front, 64-65, on a triple, but McClinton went down the other end and yanked Olimpija back in front with a jumper in the nex-to-last minute. McClinton would also finish it, with 4 free throws down the stretch, giving Olimpija's fans a final victory to keep from the Euroleague season.
Thursday, February 10, 2005