Athinaiou the hero for Greece in FIBA World Cup Qualifying opener
FIBA WORLD CUP 1ST QUAL. ROUND GROUP H - MATCHDAY 1
|Great Britain||92 - 95 (OT)||Greece|
|(17 - 17)
(37 - 37)
(54 - 55)
(83 - 83)
(92 - 95)
Ioannis Athinaiou’s clutch three-pointer with 3.4 seconds remaining in overtime handed Greece a narrow 92-95 victory over Great Britain in their FIBA World Cup qualifying opener.
It was a thrilling game in Leicester as a weakened Greek squad began their FIBA World Cup qualifying campaign against Great Britain. Greece were without many of their Euroleague stars as players like Calathes, Sloukas, Printezis, and Papanikolaou had Euroleague responsibilities with their clubs.
Greece got off to a slow start as the two teams exchanged the lead in the first half. Great Britain managed to go ahead by as many as six points (30-24) in the opening half, but the scores were tied at the halftime break (37-37).
Great Britain started off strong in the second half to take a surprising seven point lead (48-41) before Giannis Bourousis led the Greek comeback with the Ethniki pulling ahead 54-55 at the end of the third quarter. Greece took control in the opening seven minutes of the final quarter and built what looked to be a decisive 12-point lead (63-75) with three minutes remaining.
Great Britain took full advantage of the inexperienced Greek squad to cut the deficit in half with 1:47 remaining (70-76) before Greece regained a double digit lead at 70-80. However, Greece once again proved incapable of holding the lead as consistent mistakes on both ends of the court allowed the hosts to overcome the 10-point deficit with just over a minute to play, sending the game to overtime at 83-83.
Great Britain took a small advantage early in the extra period and held a 3-point lead with under a minute to play (92-89). Athinaiou converted both free throws to cut the hosts’ lead to one, and the Aris man proved to be the hero of the night as he stepped up from well-behind the 3-point line to drain the game-winning shot with 3.4 seconds remaining, giving Greece the 92-94 lead. Great Britain could not chalk up a late basket to send the match to overtime as Greece celebrated a narrow 92-95 win.
Bourousis led Greece with an oustanding 32 points (8 rebounds) while Larentzakis and Athinaiou followed with 18 points. Clark led Great Britain with 17 points.
Greece sit atop the group with Israel, who defeated Estonia earlier today, after the first set of group games and the two teams will match up in Athens on Monday for matchday two.