By David Hein
Kostas Sloukas and Charalampos Giannopoulos combined for 33 points, including eight in the final 90 seconds, as Greece made another date with the final by beating Spain 87-76 in the semi-finals of the U20 European Championship.
The septet of Greeks who won U18 European gold last summer and U19 World silver just before the U20s started are primed to add more hardware to their trophy case and will face France or Italy in Sunday's final in Rhodes.
"Again, I'm tired of it. Just kidding," joked Greek forward Vlantimir Giankovits about reaching another final.
"We came back from New Zealand and now we're back in Greece. We are happy to be back. And we're getting used to this."
|Xavier Rabaseda had 19 points in the loss for Spain.|
Greece trailed by 12 points midway through the third quarter but managed to take the lead in the period and pull away late.
"I don't know what happened. Maybe it's magic. I'm not sure. We were losing by (eight) points at halftime and we weren't scoring or hitting three-pointers or anything. In the second half we changed totally. We were a different team, fighting and we came back and won the game," said Giankovits.
Georgis Bogris scored 12 points and Nikos Pappas added 11 points for the Greeks, who lost to France and beat Italy in the preliminary round
"You can never get tired of this. It's a final," said Bogris. When asked about who he wanted in the final, he said: "I don't care. But I prefer France for revenge from the first game."
Spain will play the loser between France and Italy for the bronze medal. Xavier Rabaseda scored 19 points in
defeat while Pablo Aguilar had 16 points and Pere Tomas added 15.
|“||You can never get tired of this. It's a final.||„|
Greece had good looks early on but missed eight straight shots and Rabaseda knocked down two three-balls to give Spain an 8-2 lead. Bogris was effective inside bringing the Greeks to within 10-9. But Spain were able to get out on the break and Greece's shooting struggles continued with Tomas's triple giving Spain a 19-11 lead after one period.
Zisis Sarikopoulos dominated the early stages of the second quarter with four baskets to cut the deficit to 24-21. Spain's response was Luis Parejo knocking down a triple and Aguilar nailing threes on the next two possessions to make it a 10-point game - 33-23.
The lead would grow to 11 points - 37-26 - before Greece had it down to 39-31 at intermission.
Aguilar started the second half with another three-ball and the lead would eventually grow to 12 points - 48-36. But Missas's men used the outside game to get back into the contest and eventually grab the lead. Pappas and Sloukas each knocked down one long ball and Giannopoulos's second triple pushed the Greeks ahead.
"I had to go in and play hard and help my teammates and that's what I did," said Giannopoulos, who tallied 16 points.
Evangelos Mantzaris's late trey completed a 25-8 surge and a 61-56 lead. But Jorge Fernandez nailed a long triple at the buzzer as Greece led 63-61 after three periods.
Greece pulled ahead by 70-63 only to see Mamadou Samb cut the deficit to 72-69 with just over two minutes left. But Greece made 10 of 12 free throws down the stretch to ice the victory.