Teenage hoopsters into semis

The Greek boys of the Under-18 national basketball team secured a spot in the semifinals of the European Championship after a comfortable 72-59 win over Serbia last night. After four quick points from the Serbs, the Greeks took over and played a great defensive game that allowed their opponents to score no more than 21 points in the whole of the first half (37-21). After stretching the lead to well over 20 points (57-33 after the third period) the Greeks shifted to a lower gear and allowed the Serbs to make the scoreline more respectable. «We played very good defense; I would even call it amazing at some points in the game,» said Greece coach Giorgos Vlassopoulos yesterday. «We had the chance to give some of our starting players a good rest ahead of the semifinals, where the level of difficulty will be greater. Yet I believe that with this defense we can beat any opponent.» Greeks are top of their group in the tournament being held at Pyrgos and Amaliada in the Peloponnese, with four wins and no losses and face Lithuania tonight in the last group game of the second stage. In the semifinal to be held on Saturday in Pyrgos, Greece is likely to face either France or Croatia, who are the top teams in the other group of the quarterfinal phase. The second semifinal spot from Greece’s group remains wide open, with Serbia and Lithuania being the most likely contenders in a tournament that has attracted a considerable local following in the prefecture of Ileia. The final is scheduled for Sunday, also in Pyrgos.