PAOK overwhelm Iraklis in all-Thessaloniki Greek Cup Final

Ierapetra, Greece, April 21, 2019. PAOK THESSALONIKI celebrated their third men’s Greek Cup title Saturday night before a sell-out crowd in Europe’s southernmost town after beating crosstown rivals Iraklis Petosferisi 2015 THESSALONIKI 3-1 (20-25, 25-12, 25-20, 27-25).

It took PAOK three match balls to finish the game, as Iraklis tried in vain to force the game into a tiebreak.

Led by USA’s Garrett Muagututia who scored a match-high 23 points, and the Netherlands’ Niels Klapwijk who added another 20, PAOK recovered quickly and decisively from losing the first set to base their win on superior reception and overwhelm Iraklis in attacking efficiency with 47% (53/113) to just 39% (47/119).

Muagututia was named MVP of the Final Four for his contribution to PAOK’s third cup title after their successes in 2015 and 2018.

“I never expected the MVP award,” said the 31-year-old outside hitter. “We came to Crete firstly to win in the semi-final and secondly to claim the title. The MVP award just happened. If I had had a poor game but we won, I would still have been happy and the award was an extra bonus. I dedicate it to my family - my young daughter and my wife who followed me to Thessaloniki and now to Crete to celebrate together.”

“I went through a lot, but I came back to Greece and to PAOK exactly for the moments we experienced here in Ierapetra,” added PAOK setter Dmytro Filippov. “I had said I would return to Greece just to win titles and the first came today. We are all happy for the team and for our fans who are always by our side, but I am doubly happy to have won this title coached by my father.”

Opposite Egor Popov of Russia was Iraklis’ best scorer with 19 points.

Saturday’s game in Ierapetra, Crete, was a rematch of last year’s Cup Final, in which PAOK had shut out Iraklis in straight sets on the island of Rhodes.

To reach the final PAOK had previously knocked out Olympiacos PIRAEUS in the semi-finals in Ierapetra 3-1 (22-25, 25-15, 25-23, 28-26). Iraklis had knocked out Foinikas SYROS 3-2 (23-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-23, 15-8).