A close game for three quarters turned into a Zagreb house party on Wednesday as Cibona roared ahead at the finish to an 85-80 Group A victory over visiting AEK of Athens. With its second home win, Cibona boosts its record to 2-1, while AEK fell to 1-2. It was the fourth consecutive win of the Croats over the Yellows, all of them close. The last in a series of Cibona runs, 18-7 in the middle of the final quarter, decided it for the hosts. Jurica Golemac and Slaven Rimad put up 17 points each for the winners, the latter sealing the deal at the foul line, where he made 12 of 14 attempts. Matej Mamic had 9 points and 9 rebounds for Cibona and did a great defensive job in the second half on Christos Tapoutos, AEK's top gun for the night. Tapoutos finished with 22 points, only 3 of those after halftime. Quadre Lollis added 17 and 11 rebounds, Nikos Zizis 12 points and Nikos Hatzis 10 for AEK.
The home dominanted the early stage of the match, taking a 10-2 lead, but as has happened before to Cibona, the opponent did not take long to get close and make things interesting. Seven minutes into the opening period AEK drew level, 14-14, and kept it close most of the way thereafter. Cibona reacted to take a 24-18 lead, but Nikolaos Zizis connected on a three-point shot at the buzzer for 24-21 after 10 minutes.
To start the second quarter, Nikos Hatzis launched and made his own downtown shot to tie the game. Andrija Zizic, who had sat out the first quarter to avoid early foul trouble, made a three-point play for Cibona, but his counterpart on AEK, Quadre Lollis, got things even again. AEK was at its best now, taking a 36-30 lead after 16 minutes behind the exploits of Christos Tapoutos, who would finish the half with 19 points. But a 13-0 scoring run that included 5 points from Golemac got Cibona back a 43-36 lead. Tapoutos made another three-point shot to cut the lead to 4 points, 43-39, at the half.
Early in the third period Cibona was once again up by 8 points, 50-42, when AEK made two mistakes that cost them dearly, failing to rebound a Cibona missed shot that gave the home team a second chance. It resulted in 6 points as Rimac and Davor Kus each made three-point shots. In 10 minutes bridging the end of second and beginning of the third quarters, Cibona had made a 20-6 run. Lollis led the fight back for AEK with 5 points, and the visitors actually had a chance to lead by 5 at the end of third quarter, but a Zisis turnover led to a Zizic basket, so AEK was up by only 1 point, 58-59 entering the last 10 minutes.
Lollis was still going strong, and his three-point play gave AEK a four-point lead, 58-62, to start the foruth quarter. James Penn stepped up and drilled a triple to keep Cibona close. The home team was about to surge, however. AEK was leading 65-67 when Cibona took off on a 18-7 run to an 82-74 lead that all but finished off the guests. AEK never got closer than 4 after that as Rimac took care of things at the foul line. Thanks went also to Matej Mamic for locking down Tapoutos after halftime, limiting him to only 3 more points rest of the way.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003