AEK Athens advance to Final Four as they hold off SIG Strasbourg
STRASBOURG (Basketball Champions League) - AEK Athens booked their spot in the Basketball Champions League Final Four after an 83-83 tie with SIG Strasbourg saw them take a 161-152 aggregate victory to advance.
A three at the buzzer from Kevin Punter saw the game result in an 83-all tie, but the victory was already secured thanks to the 9 point Leg 1 win.
Dusan Sakota came up huge with a pair of back-to-back threes down the stretch with a little over two and a half minutes to play, which proved to be the daggers.
Punter's 18 points led five players into double figures for Athens, with Mike Green and Sakota finishing with 12 each and Manny Harris 11.
"We did it for 40 minutes," Sakota said. "We knew they are a team that makes runs, it was obvious they were going to make their run at some point, we just need to stay calm, and not panic and that's what we did and it brought us the tied game and the win."
Athens Head Coach Dragan Sakota added:
"First of all big congratulations for our team. We played against a very strong opponent who beat us two times during the regular season. It's a special day for us, today it's exactly 50 years ago when AEK won the first Euro cup in our gym with 80,000 people, so it's another reason to be so happy.
"...It was a difficult game, no question, the game was all the time with tie score. We struggled very much with fouls, in the end we played crucial defence and made a couple of important shots.
"I believe we deserved to go to the Final Four and this year is probably one of the biggest successes in the history of AEK, because we've already won the Cup and now we try to win one more competition."
Strasbourg were boosted by a 19-point outing from Louis Labeyrie, but it would not be enough, as Dee Bost and Miro Bilan added 16-a-piece, with the former also contributing 9 assists and 5 rebounds.
"It was a good game both teams played very well," Zack Wright, who finished with 10 points, said.
"The key factor in the game was in the fourth quarter when Sakota hit the two threes, those were daggers and that hurt. After that we couldn't get back right. I tip my hat off to them, they played a very good game, we made a few mistakes and they punished us every time."
AEK were in control from the start, holding on to a 20-16 lead after the opening period.
In second period, Strasbourg turned a 7 point deficit into a 5 point lead, after a David Logan three with 2:39 left in the half. AEK rekindled their momentum to regain control and go up 37-35 at halftime, putting Strasbourg in an 11-point hole on aggregate.
Strasbourg opened the second half on a 7-2 run to take the lead, before being up by as many as eight following a Dee Bost three with 2:26 left in the third. However, Punter led an Athens charge, as they brought it back to a three point game heading into the fourth after a Mike Evans score with 5 seconds left.
In the fourth, Athens kept the pressure on as Strasbourg did a good job holding them off, leading by five, 69-64, with 3:19 left. It was at this point Sakota stepped up, knocking down his triples to make it a one point game and boosting the Greek side to pull out the win.
Strasbourg refused to go down without a fight; back to back threes from Logan and Randolph in the final 35 seconds were their last gasp attempt to pull it back, but it was too little, too late.