Greek hoopsters averted a complete disaster by playing their best game to date at the 2017 Eurobasket to beat Poland 95-77 on Wednesday and advance to the second round.
The national team will now leave Helsinki and travel to Istanbul to face Luthuania in the round of 16 on Saturday.
The life-or-death game against Poland, Greece’s last in the group, made the Greek players predictably nervous, leading to the same problems seen throughout the first stage of the tournament: A loose defense at the start of the game and a significant deficit to tackle after the first period.
This time the Polish took an eight-point advantage late in the first quarter (29-21), but the Greeks proved much more determined to stay in the competition than in previous games. They scored 11 unanswered points to go ahead by three (32-29) and finish the first half on top (49-43), as Greece made the most of the absence of Poland’s US-born player AJ Slaughter.
The three-pointers by Nick Calathes and Costas Sloukas kept Greece alive even when the Polish staged a fightback to advance by two (58-56), leading the national team to a crucial nine-point lead (80-71).
The spectacular three-point rate (13 out of 20 or 65 percent overall) and the supremacy in rebounds were the winning features for the players of Costas Missas, who pulled away in the last quarter for an easy win in the end.
Sloukas scored 26 points and Calathes 24, while Giorgos Papagiannis had eight points and eight rebounds.
Greece finished fourth in its group with two wins from five games.