Sport: Hatis drops rematch with Greeks, but improves during “basketball festival”

In Round 4 of the women’s Basketball Euro League revived Yerevan club Hatis lost to division leader Athinaikos 87-79 before a standing-room-only crowd at Mika Sports Auditorium in Yerevan. The back-and-forth game was a moral victory of sorts for the home club (2-2 in league play), considering that in their first meeting the Greeks trounced the Armenians by more than 51 points (105-54).

All 1,160 tickets to the Hatis home game had been sold out well in advance, and the Basketball Federation had also asked for additional seats to be made available given the fan interest. But even the extra 50 seats that eventually were offered by the organizers were not enough to accommodate for all who wished to attend – fans occupied all staircases and passages in the stands.

Despite the outcome in favor of the Athens team, the game itself passed in a tense and mostly equal struggle. Hatis survived a miserable second quarter in which it was outscored 28-11 to end the half trailing 49-44.  Gia Ghazanchyan’s charges returned from intermission in control, however, taking the lead by as much as eight points, due largely to a succession of 3-pointers, including crucial tres by playmaker Maurita Reid of Jamaica.

After four rounds, Hatis have 6 points and continue to remain third in four-member Group F that also features Besiktas (Istanbul, Turkey) and Chevakata (Vologda, Russia).

At a press conference after the game, Athinaikos head coach Georgios Dikaioulakos praised the hospitality of the Armenian side. 

“This is more important than basketball. Despite the victory by a large margin in the first leg, we knew that we were in for a difficult game tonight. I am amazed at such a support of the Armenian fans of their team,” said Dikaioulakos. “I wouldn’t say we were stronger, Hatis lost on little things; we were helped by our experience.”

Hatis head coach Gia Ghazanchyan said that the opponent was stronger and got a deserved victory. 

“As they say, you can’t jump higher than your head. Even when we were in the lead, I didn’t think the outcome was decided in our favor. The Greek club is stronger than us at this moment,” he said. 

Ghazanchyan added: “Today is a big basketball festival in Armenia and this is more important.”

The Hatis head coach expects the home game against Besiktas on December 17 to be crucial in deciding which three teams progress to the 1/16 stage of the Euro League. 

In the other Group F game on Thursday Besiktas beat Chevakata in Vologda 81-80. 

Next, Hatis are scheduled to travel to the Russian town for their Round 5 game on December 10.