The rejuvenated national basketball team, deprived of Greece’s players in the Euroleague, premiered with a victory in overtime against Great Britain at Leicester on Friday, in its first game for the 2019 World Cup qualifiers.
Greece won 95-92 in front of a mixed set of fans where Greek students and expats had a very strong presence and often outshouted the Brits.
The mix of two players from the old guard (Yiannis Bouroussis and Panayiotis Vassilopoulos) with a bunch of mostly inexperienced players on this level meant Greece was an unknown quantity before as well as during the game. Add the new coach in Thanasis Skourtopoulos and you have a team capable for the best as well as the worst at the same time.
Therefore even when Greece advanced by 12 points it was never able to ensure victory, and the amazing fightback by the hosts saw them equalize (83-83) right at the end of regulation time, making the most of a series of turnovers by the nervous Greek team.
When the Brits led 92-89 in overtime the Greeks finally regrouped and scored six unanswered points, including a decisive triple by Yiannis Athinaiou, to snatch victory in the end.
Bouroussis towered above everyone else with his quality and experience, scoring 32 points in 29 minutes, while Athinaiou and Giorgos Larentzakis added 18 points each.
On Monday Greece hosts Israel in Iraklio.