SPORTS

Greece’s three-point miracle

Nikos Zisis’s buzzer-beater three-point shot against Australia secured Greece its third win in as many games in the group stage of the World Basketball Championships in Japan yesterday. However, had it not been for another three-pointer just eight seconds earlier by forward Antonis Fotsis, which took the two teams level at 69-69, Greece would have been staring at its first loss in the tournament. It went into the last 30 seconds of the game trailing 68-63 a determined Australia side, led by Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut who scored 18 points. Guard Vassilis Spanoulis then scored twice from the line to make it 68-65 and another free throw from both teams made it 69-66 for the Aussies with no more than 19 seconds left. The Greeks then repeated their never-say-die feat from last September when they came back from seven points down and with 40 seconds to go against France in the European Basketball Championship in Belgrade, which Greece eventually won. «This team has got a lucky star, but with performances like that we cannot fulfill our dream,» said Zisis, highlighting the worries from the team’s problems in scoring and in rebounds: Australia had 29 rebounds against Greece’s 24. At least Greece improved in free throws, making 20 out of 23 this time. It also relied on its tight defense and many steals. The Aussies began the game on top, taking an 11-4 lead, but Greece equalized at 17-17 at the end of the first period. It had to wait until the 18th minute, though, to take the lead (32-31) and finished the first half on top (39-34). Australia came back and led 55-50 at the 28th minute, with the lead changing hands by the minute in the last period. Coach Panayiotis Yiannakis conceded that «we were not focused enough, but we managed to stay cool and win. The Australians had a good shooting rate considering their previous records, while we showed impatience and hesitation. But we fought till the very end, we played cleverly in the last seconds and the lads showed again that they hate losing.» Yiannakis was happy to see his center Lazaros Papadopoulos dominate the front line in the first half, finishing the game with 12 points to his name. Yet Fotsis’s 24 points and his equalizing shot made him the man of the match. Greece plays Brazil this afternoon and a win will mathematically secure it a top-two finish in the group.