ATHENS – Led by American James Airline Gist Pan

ATHENS – Led by American James Airline Gist Pan

first_imgATHENS – Led by American James “Airline” Gist, Panathinaikos took the first game of a best-of-five series in the Greek basketball league finals, beating Olympiakos, 59-56 on May 22.It was Gist’s raw power and brute rebounding in the third period that helped the Greens pull away from their “eternal rival,” as the two dominant powers of Greek basketball are known.Between them, they’ve won the last 11 years in a row – 10 of the titles going to Panathinaikos, with the other teams just playing for the regular season with little chance of matching the leaders whose owners have more buying power to acquire stars.Only an AEK win in 2002 has interrupted a string of 21 years of Panathinaikos or Olympiakos winning the championship.Jonas Maciulis provided strong support for the winners on their home court as Panathinaikos jumped out to a 19-6 first period lead but let Olympiakos get back into the game after failing to hit on three-pointers instead of taking the game inside to challenge the Reds to stop them.Olympiakos closed the gap to 35-26 at half, brought back into the game by the play of Stratos Peperoglou, who won up with 15 points on the night.Then game Gist Time. He carried the Greeks on his back and after Olympiakos closed to within 38-36, Gist led them on a tear to take a 51-41 lead at the end of three.The Greens then went cold and Olympiakos opened the last quarter on a 12-0 run to take a lead at 53-51, keeping Panathinaikos scoreless until there were only four minutes left in the game.But then the Panathinaikos defense picked up and and two lay-ups by Stephane Lasme and Maciulis brought Panathinaikos in front again (55-53), before two free throws by Gist sealed the victory. Maciulis scored 15 in the game and hit six out of six two-pointers from the field.Unlike past finals between the two rivals that have frequently erupted into violence, there were no incidents, perhaps because the Olympic Sport Hall was far from full as many fans stayed away. Game two is May 26 at Olympiakos’ home at Peace and Friendship Stadium in Piraeus.In the battle for the third spot PAOK upset Panionios to win 65-60 at Nea Smyrni and lead the best-of-five series 1-0.TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more