Aris BSA 2003 made it to the Eurocup Last 16 and set a do-or-die showdown to win Group C next week by downing Zadar 73-67 in Thessaloniki, Greece on Tuesday. Aris leads Group C with a 4-1 record and faces Hapoel Jerusalem - second at 3-2 - on the road next week. Aris can afford a four-point loss and still finish first. Meanwhile, Zadar went down to 2-3 and is mathematically out of the Last 16 race. Aaron Miles paced the winners with 16 points. Jeremy Richardson added 11 while Keydren Clark and Nikos Hatzivrettas each had 10 for Aris. Hrvoje Peric had 13 points for Zadar, Rok Stipcevic added 11 and Damir Rancic 10. A put-back layup by Peric allowed Zadar to get a 19-20 edge at the end of an exciting first quarter that saw 16 lead changes. Miles and Clark stepped up soon after that to make Aris get an eight-point lead, 41-33, at halftime. Aris improved its defense after the break. Meanwhile, an unbelievable buzzer-beating triple by Hatzivrettas made it a 14-point game, 62-48, after 30 minutes. Peric, Vladimir Boisa and Rancic managed to bring Zadar within 70-67 already in the final minute but free throws by Hatzivrettas and Miles sealed the outcome down the stretch.
Stipcevic got Zadar going with consecutive baskets but a three-pointer by Richardson and a layup by Demos Dikoudis gave Aris an early 5-4 lead. Marco Car struck from downtown but a dunk by Andy Betts and a jumper by Miles allowed Aris to restore a 9-8 edge. Trent Plaisted scored twice around the basket but Miles kept pacing Aris for a 13-12 score. Peric and a red hot Miles traded baskets and a jumper by Tomislav Ruzic provided another lead change, 15-16. Hatzivrettas and Betts stepped up for Aris but a put-back layup by Peric allowed Zadar to get a 19-20 edge after 10 minutes. Rancic downed a three-pointer and Ruzic added a layup to give Zadar a 21-25 lead early in the second quarter. A big triple by Clark ignited a 10-1 run in which he had 7 points to get the crowd involved at 31-26. Zadar struggled to find the way to the basket until Boisa stepped up with consecutive layups. Miles shined with a layup off an Aris timeout and soon added free throws for a 35-30 lead. Stipcevic sank a three-pointer but Miles sank more foul shots and Gaios Skordilis followed a dunk with a put-back basket to fix the halftime score at 41-33.
Zadar improved its defense immediately after the break. Meanwhile, a jumper by Car ignited an 0-8 run in which Boisa had 4 points, including a jumper that tied it at 41-41. Betts stepped up with a layup and Clark added a three-point play to give Aris some fresh air at 46-41. Aris kept excelling in defense, with great intensity, while back-to-back three-pointers by Richardon boosted his team's lead to 53-42. Zadar tried to get its frontcourt involved without much success. A three-point play by Dragan Labovic and back-to-back triples by Hatzivrettas - the second one was an incredible, off-balance buzzer-beater - gave Aris a 62-48 lead after 30 minutes. Zadar needed a quick comeback to return to the game and Peric tried to ignite it with a free throw and a power layup. Richardson scored again and Miles downed a triple for a 67-51 Aris lead. Peric kept trying and found some help from Boisa and Rancic to give Zadar some hope, 69-59, with 4 minutes left. Rancic and a three-point play by Ruzic got Zadar even closer, 70-67, with 1:45 left. Aris kept struggling to score but Dikoudis drew a key offensive foul on Peric. Free throws by Hatzivrettas and Miles allowed Aris to celebrate an important win.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010