PAOK hold off Valencia to stay alive
PAOK Thessaloniki restored its chances of qualifying to the eighthfinals by holding off the visiting Valencia Basket 75-72 on Wednesday. Both teams now hold 2-3 record in Group I, with PAOK visiting Limoges CSP in the final round while Valencia, which suffered its third consecutive loss after starting the season with 12 wins in a row, hosts EWE Baskets Oldenburg next week. PAOK led for most of the night, thanks to a 16-2 run that bridged first and second quarters. But the hosts' lead was never bigger than 8 points, 56-48 in the third. Valencia rallied in the fourth, and game was tied at 66-66, but Will Hatcher hit a key three-pointer, then sealed the deal from the foul line to secure victory for PAOK. Hatcher finished with 18 points, and Sofoklis Schortsanitis had 10 in victory. Apollon Tsochlas and Uros Duvnjak each chipped in with 9 for PAOK. Valencia had Guillem Vives scored 19, and Bojan Dubljevic had 12 points in defeat.
Back-to-back threes from Rafa Martinez and Justin Hamilton got Valencia to 2-8 lead. The same two players each scored from closer range, before John Shurna hit another triple to make it 10-17. But Tsochlas hit from downtown for PAOK, he added a put-back, too, before Vangelis Margaritas tied it at 19-19 at the end of the first quarter. The hosts continued its run in the second, scoring first seven points, run capped by Kostas Kakaroudis triple that opened 26-19. Valencia needed more than 3 minutes in the second quarter to score, when Antoine Diot hit from long range to snap a 16-2 spurt. Hamilton also hit from long range for the visitors, and Jon Stefansson made a fastbreak layup to close within 31-27, but Hatcher and Tsochlas knocked down shots from long range to extend the margin to 8 points, before Martinez made it 39-33 at halftime.
At the start of the third quarter, Vives and Vladimir Lucic combined to score 12 points, including each burying a triple, to get Valencia within 46-45. Schortsanitis kept PAOK in front scoring 6 points of his during that span, before Dubljevic nailed one from long range to tie it at 48-48. But the hosts replied with a triple from Duvnjak, and a put-back from Nikola Markovic, before a three-pointer from Hatcher restored 56-48 lead, and forced a Valencia timeout. Dubljevic and Diot halved the deficit, and Shurna hit a triple before the end of the third to make it 58-55. Baskets were few and far between in the fourth, with both teams scoring from the foul line before Stefansson made it 62-58. Milenko Tepic hit a jumper for PAOK, but Dubljevic nailed a three-pointer and Vives made a basket to tie at 64-64. After Markovic and Dubljevic traded baskets, neither team scored a field goal for almost 3 minutes before Hatcher nailed a three-pointer to open 70-66 with 76 seconds to go. Vives twice made a pair of free throws, and Tsochlas split his in between, as PAOK had 71-70 with 13.8 seconds left. But in the remaining time, Hatcher made 4 of 4 from the foul line, with Vives hitting his two free throws, too. Valencia had 4 seconds to send the game into overtime, but Hamilton's three-pointer was way off mark as PAOK prevailed.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016