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Greece advances to quarterfinals

Greece’s national basketball team reached the quarterfinals of the European Championships undefeated yesterday after beating Ukraine 79-73.This was Greece’s third win in as many games at the Championship finals and the third in which it had to play catch-up. Indeed, the Greek team entered the match in a lethargic state, perhaps because of Saturday night’s celebration of the important 75-70 victory over Turkey or because coach Yiannis Ioannidis uncharacteristically canceled yesterday morning’s practice, allowing them to oversleep or take a lakeside stroll. He had certainly regretted that by halftime, as Greece hit only five of its 28 shots and scored a ridiculously low 19 points, trailing the Ukrainians by 20 points. «This is simply unacceptable,» Ioannidis said after the match, referring to the team’s first-half play. Whatever transpired in the locker room certainly helped the Greek side, for in the third 10-minute period they erased Ukraine’s advantage, scoring 35 points and entering the final period a single point behind (55-54). Greece relied heavily on guards Christos Harissis and Nikos Hadzivrettas, who scored a combined 20 points, mainly through three-point shots. It also improved its rebounding, denying the Ukrainians easy second chances. At the end of the third period, the Ukrainians looked already defeated. They tried valiantly in the fourth period, but Greece simply has too many alternatives when its players get going. Forward Frangiskos Alvertis, who had disappointed so far, was Greece’s best player in the fourth period, along with fellow forward Dimos Dikoudis. Dikoudis was the match’s top scorer with 21 points, followed by Alvertis with 17 and center Efthymis Rentzias with 14. Despite that, Greece’s players had difficulties with inside scoring. Dikoudis, in particular, and Alvertis scored with drives to the basket, but it was always difficult to get the ball to the big men inside and Greece relied too much on its outside shots. Greece will know its quarterfinal opponent today, which will be the winner of the game between Germany and Italy. Other teams which advanced directly to the quarterfinals are France, Lithuania and Spain, and, not surprisingly, reigning champions Serbia and Montenegro. The latter will play Turkey, which finished second in Greece’s group, in an elimination game today.