BELGRADE (Reuters) - Fenerbahce Istanbul became the first team to qualify for the Euroleague Final Four as a 75-74 overtime win at Maccabi Tel Aviv on Monday completed a 3-0 sweep of the holders in the best-of-five quarter-final series.
However, the competition’s six-time winners CSKA still have work to do after an 86-85 defeat at Panathinaikos reduced their lead to 2-1, with Game Four scheduled for Wednesday.
In the other two quarter-finals, Real Madrid are 2-0 ahead of Anadolu Efes Istanbul while Barcelona and Olympiakos Piraeus are tied at 1-1 in the race to reach the May 15-17 Madrid event.
Fenerbahce playmaker Andrew Goudelock spun away from his markers and netted a lay-up with his weaker left hand with nine seconds remaining to settle a thrilling rollercoaster contest.
His American compatriot Jeremy Pargo missed a difficult shot on the buzzer for the hosts at the other end, sending Fenerbahce to the season-ending showpiece event for the first time.
“Small details decided the match and congratulations to my players for staying focused throughout the series,” Fenerbahce coach Zeljko Obradovic told Euroleague television.
“It’s always great to play here because Maccabi fans have such a great understanding of basketball,” added the 55-year old Serb, the most trophy-laden Euroleague coach who has won eight titles with four different clubs.
Goudelock, who scored 15 points on a patchy night after hitting just five of 15 shots from the field, was grateful for the support he received from his team.
“Back and forth all night, I missed four or five shots I normally make but my team mates kept their faith in me and I thank them for that,” he said.
“If we keep up our winning mentality and the belief that the only team that can beat us is ourselves, anything can happen at the Final Four.”
Reserve playmaker Nikos Zisis nailed 19 points for Fenerbahce, while Pargo amassed 21 and Maccabi forward Brian Randle added 19 at the other end.
Panathinaikos, who were brushed aside by CSKA in the opening two games in Moscow, nearly wasted a 10-point lead in the closing stages of a fortuitous win in Athens.
Guard Nikos Pappas buried one of two free-throws with three second left and CSKA, whose forward Sonny Weems had committed a clumsy mid-court foul, threw away their final possession.
Pappas led all scorers with 25 points and former Toronto Raptors starter Weems collected 24.
Editing by Ken Ferris