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PAOK cruise into Play-offs with romp at Ventspils


PAOK have endured their share of frustrating losses in the Basketball Champions League this season but on Tuesday night, the Greek club owned the court in an 84-54 rout of Ventspils.


The triumph clinched fourth place in Group C and a spot in the Play-offs for the team from Thessaloniki, which had won the first meeting back on 30 November, 85-81, after overtime.

If all looked lost for Ventspils after this poor display when they shot 32.2 percent (19 of 59) from the floor and committed 19 turnovers, it at least did not cost them a place in the next phase of the competition because they will finish as one of the four fifth-place teams from the five groups that will advance to the Play-offs.

They will do so with seven wins and seven defeats, the same record as PAOK.

The visitors took control of the game early. On top 8-5, a lay-up by power forward Evangelos Margaritis and five straight points from Antonis Koniaris gave PAOK their first double-digit advantage.

Linos Chrysikopoulos then came off the bench and scored six of his team's last eight points over the final 2:38 of the opening quarter and they led, 26-16.

Ventspils, whose coach Karlis Muiznieks took a leave of absence earlier this month for health reasons, tried to come back under the guidance of Gints Fogels but never really looked dangerous.

The PAOK advantage twice ballooned to 17 points before they went to half-time in command at 45-31.

A 3-pointer from Maris Gulbis reduced the arrears to 11 at the start of the second half but PAOK, whose big center Keith Clanton was in dazzling form under the basket and showing tremendous footwork, stormed into a 23-point lead and cruised to victory - their biggest of the Basketball Champions League season.

Clanton only had 7 points but he pulled down 8 rebounds and also had a game-high 5 assists.

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