SPORTS

Greece wins three out of three before Eurobasket competition

Preparing for the Eurobasket tournament in Belgrade next month, the men’s national basketball team ended a wrap-up tournament, dubbed the Supercup, in Braunschweig, Germany with three wins from as many games, including a 66-57 victory over the host team yesterday. In the preceding games, Greece, seeking to regain its position as a European power following a slip in recent years, defeated Georgia, 82-71, and Belarus, 102-79. The wins, following three straight losses in another Eurobasket warmup tournament in Italy, offered encouraging signs for coach Panayiotis Yiannakis, whose team has shown problems in attack. Besides displaying greater efficiency and cohesion against Germany, a team that will be competing at next month’s Eurobasket, Greece also performed solidly in defense to combat the dangers generated by German Dirk Nowitzki, an NBA star who plays for the Dallas Mavericks. Germany, it should be pointed out, was without three key players – center Patrick Femerling, forward Ademola Okulaja and point guard Mithat Demirel – all of whom are injured. Signifying that he was now finalizing his plans for September’s Eurobasket, Yiannakis avoided making multiple changes in the team’s lineup and strategy during yesterday’s encounter against Germany. Greece, drawn in Group C, begins its Eurobasket quest against France on September 16. It then plays Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina over the next two days respectively. The national team had made the entire country delirious by winning Eurobasket back in 1987, Greece’s first ever major international triumph in team sports. The team ended runner-up two years later, and then captured fourth place over three successive Eurobasket tournaments in 1993, 1995, and 1997, before slipping out of the picture. Greece rebounded to end fifth at the previous Eurobasket tournament two years ago. In his post-match comments yesterday, Greece forward Costas Tsartsaris kept a lid on the team’s win over Germany. «The excitement has to go, because history wrote that Greece defeated Germany in a friendly match and nothing more,» Tsartsaris said. Yiannakis said he was satisfied by Greece’s defensive play, but noted his team was not yet fully prepared. «We need to improve the speed of our game as well as the duration of our good play. We’re going to have to reach a step higher at the Acropolis tournament,» said Yiannakis, referring to Greece’s final warmup tournament, a three-day competition in Athens that starts September 5. Greece guard Thodoris Papaloukas of CSKA Moscow said he believed the national team had more capacity to fulfill. «We’re improving with time. In Braunschweig, we played very well in the second halves against Belarus and Germany. But we’re still at an experimental stage. We have to be ready for Eurobasket’s high demands,» Papaloukas said. «Until now, we’ve played very good defense. But, we’ll also find our rhythm in attack. It’s just a matter of time.»