Aris TT Bank holds a share of second-place in Group B after holding on until the finish of a 67-64 victory over dangerous Efes Pilsen at home in Thessaloniki, Greece on Wednesday. Aris raised its record to 4-2, good enough to join either Lietuvos Rytas or Unicaja in second place after those two co-leaders played later. Efes, meanwhile is at 3-3 and hoping to hold fourth place exclusively at the end of the week. Efes had enjoyed leads of up to 7 points in the second quarter, but Aris used a 15-0 run to turn the game around before halftime. Down by double digits in the second half, Efes rallied to within a point, 62-61, with 30 seconds to play, but Aris finished off the win at the foul line. Jeremiah Massey was huge again for Aris with a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds. Bracey Wright led the scoring charge with 20 points for the winners and Reyshawn Terry added 10. Efes struggled to score against the Aris defense during long stretches of the game, producing in the end only two double-digit scorers, Drew Nicholas with 15 points and Ender Arslan with 11. Kerem Gonlum pulled down 10 rebounds for Efes, which saw big man Ermal Kuqo slowed by an injury after scoring 8 points and pulling 7 rebounds in the first half.
Aris started the game at full speed with Tsaldaris burying the very first triple try and driving to the basket twice to give the hosts an early 7-2 lead. For Efes, only Penn managed to find his way to the basket in the first 3 minutes, but soon Nicholas raced for a layup and Gonlum scored a tip-in to make it 8-6. Head coach David Blatt then put Ender Arslan in charge of organizing his team's offense, and Efes tied it 10-10 with an off-balance jumper by Hutson, 10-10. Bracey Wright for Aris and Arslan traded successive shots from beyond the arc to keep the game balanced until Ermal Kuqo decided the final outcome of the quarter by pushing Efes into the lead at 14-17.
Efes continued adding to its margin early in the second quarter despite losing their best player until that moment, Kuqo, to a minor injury. Aris could not find decen shots, as only Lazaros Agadakos got a basket down and Penn quickly extended the Efes lead to 16-21, forcing a timeout by the home team. Nonetheless, Efes kept hurting Aris in the paint as Gonlum supplied his team's biggest lead yet, 17-24 midway through the quarter. But what time remained until halftime would belong to Aris. First, Massey took the hosts in his arms and drove twice to the basket trying to wake his team up. Soon, Hanno Mottola copied him with a nice move under the basket that all but erased the difference, at 23-24, and prompted an Efes timeout. The visitors remained scoreless for 4 minutes while Terrell Castle fired from downtown to put his team in charge again. Soon, the Massey-Mottola duo capped a 15-0 run to preserve a 32-25 Aris lead at halftime.
Nothing changed to start the third quarter. Efes couldn’t find its way to the basket and Wright boosted Aris with his second triple and hit another jumper to push the margin for the first time into double-digit territory, at 38-27. After a timeout asked by David Blatt, Loren Woods reduced the difference with back-to-back layups for Efes, but Tsadaris soon responded to keep his team well ahead. The visitors found no offensive answers, while Wright went to the foul line and restored the double-digit lead at 43-33. However, Efes didn’t surrender. Woods scored from the free throw line and blocked Reyshawn Terry’s dunk as Nicholas drew the guests to within 45-39 after 30 minutes.
Nicholas brought Efes even closer with a jumper to open the final quarter, but Terry netted a layup and a free throw to give his team fresh air. Massey followed that with a dunk, but Efes nonetheless found more ways to make up points, with Hutson scoring under the basket and Nicholas from downtown to make it 52-48. Aris took a timeout with 6 minutes to go, but failed to add to the lead. Arslan struck now from beyond the arc to put Efes on the brink of a takeover, at 52-51. After Terry and Woods exchanged points, Wright seemed to decide the game for Aris with a strange four-point play: his layup came with a free throw that bounced around the rim, where Hutson accidentally tapped it in for 2 more points for a 60-55 Aris lead with 90 seconds left. Efes had not said its last word yet. Hutson had a tip-in and drew a flagrant foul on the play, leading to another triple by Nicholas that suddenly showed a 62-61 scoreboard with 30 seconds left. Castle went successfully to the foul line for Aris, but Arslan missed 1 of 2 for Efes. Wright added a pair of free throws for Aris to make it 66-62 and after Nicholas missed a late triple try, Aris finally won a thriller, 67-64.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007