PAOK Holds Off Hapoel Jerusalem's Late Surge to Claim Top Spot in Group G
In a thrilling contest that highlighted the close competition of Group G, PAOK rebounded from their blowout defeat in Lisbon to clinch a pivotal victory against previously unbeaten Hapoel Jerusalem. This clash at the PAOK Sports Arena wasn't just a game; it was a statement that PAOK can beat anyone in Group G.
PAOK's Early Dominance Meets Hapoel's Tenacity
The drama unfolded early in Thessaloniki, where PAOK, driven by the home crowd, blasted off the blocks. Stavros Schizas lit up the arena with a three-pointer, opening an 8-point advantage for The Double-Headed Eagle. But Hapoel, showcasing their resilience, clawed back into the game, overturning the deficit in a blink with a thrilling 8-0 run.
The second quarter was a close contest between two technically-gifted teams, but it was PAOK who eventually seized control. Kendall Smitht dazzled with 16 points and 6 rebounds, as PAOK built a seemingly comfortable 11-point cushion to enter the fourth period. The Double-Headed Eagles were soaring, but Hapoel Jerusalem had other ideas.
Hapoel's Comeback and a tense finale
True to their reputation, Hapoel Jerusalem, coached by Aleksandar Dzikic, refused to go down without a fight. Mirroring their resilience against Galatasaray, they erased PAOK's lead, setting the stage for a nail-biting finish. The game, oscillating like a pendulum, saw PAOK's brief resurgence met by a relentless Hapoel attack, culminating in a dramatic tie with a minute to go.
In these moments, PAOK turned to Kendall Smith. Calm and collected, the former Oklahoma State shooting guard delivered crucial free throws for PAOK. However, Hapoel's Zoosman wasn't done yet, slicing through PAOK's lead with a critical basket. The game's climax had the fans on the edge of their seats: Zoosman blocked a potential game-sealing layup, but Hapoel's last shot by Speedy Smith agonizingly missed its mark.
Looking Ahead: Group G is as close as it gets
PAOK's victory, edgy and hard-fought, propels them to the top of Group G, altering the dynamics of this intriguing group. Every matchup hereafter carries monumental significance, promising basketball of the highest intensity.
Relive the close contest at the PAOK Sports Arena with the PAOK Mateco - Hapoel Bank Jahav Jerusalem game highlights.