Aris down but not out
Aris survived a major scare but held on by just three points on aggregate to advance to the EuroCup regular season after Lukoil Academic claimed an impressive although ultimately fruitless 93-92 win on the night in Greece.
With four players claiming double-doubles in the game and a thrilling finale, it was certainly an exciting night for the 4,000 home fans in Thessaloniki - even if they did have to suffer their team making them sweat it out.
There was nothing between the teams in the opening exchanges until a burst of three-pointers from Travis Peterson and Brandon Bowman saw Lukoil stun the locals by taking a seven point lead on the evening and three point aggregate lead.
Chatzivrettas then led the Aris come-back and the quarter closed with the hosts only two points behind at 22-24.
Aris went on a run of eight unanswered points to take the lead at 35-33, half-way through the second quarter. Only to then see Brandon Heath and Stoykov share three consecutive shots from downtown to get their team back in front at 48-44.
However, the visitors allowed Aris to come out with a 6-0 start of the second half and when a Kaspars Kambala jump-shot went in, it gave Lukoil the impetus to do more chasing again.
It was Kambala who kept Lukoil in the game during the first five minutes of the third quarter and just when Aris looked to be edging away, Heath sunk a last second three pointer to close the third quarter at 72-72.
Still tied up at 83-83, Lukoil stepped up and the first points of the evening for Veselinov brought the scores to 89-84 in favour of Lukoil with two minutes to go.
With the tie hanging in the balance, Nikos Chatzivrettas then showed his nerve by calmly slotting 2 of 2 from the line for Aris to leave Lukoil needing three points from the last possession to level the tie.
Lukoil worked the ball to Heath, whose three-pointer did not go in and Aris were able to start celebrating.
Christos Tapoutos and Anthony Tucker registered double-double for Aris while Kambala and Heath repeated the feat for the visitors.
However perhaps it was the ice cool work of Chatzivrettas on the line during crunch time that was the most important aspect in the game.
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