SPORTS

Greece downs Puerto Rico to set sight on London

The men?s national basketball team edged closer to a ticket to the 2012 Olympic Games after defeating Puerto Rico 98-84 in the early hours of Thursday ? Greek time ? in Venezuela.

The Greeks now need to beat Nigeria in Friday?s quarterfinal of the Olympic Qualification tournament taking place in Caracas and then score one win in a maximum of two games against the likes of Russia, Lithuania or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to secure a place in the Olympics.

After thrashing hapless Jordan 107-63 on Monday in the first game of its three-team pool, Greece came up against a much more competitive Puerto Rico that sported such NBA stars a JJ Barea and Renaldo Balkman.

Greece had the upper hand almost throughout the game despite its defensive problems owing to Puerto Rico’s supreme front line.

The players of coach Ilias Zouros led 30-27 and 49-47 after the first couple of periods, and when Puerto Rico momentarily took the lead (51-49) Greece bounced back to advance by eight (70-62) after the third period and stretch its lead to 17 just before the end (98-81), thanks to its remarkable three-point scoring rate that was steadily above 50 percent.

Vassilis Spanoulis was Greece?s top scorer with 27 points, 18 of which were in the first half.