By Jeff TaylorGreece won for the second time in the EuroBasket Women Qualifying Round by upsetting Slovakia on Monday but it may end up being not enough to reach the Quarter-Finals.
With scoring machine Evina Maltsi pouring in 22 points - 18 in the second half - the Greeks scraped a 59-57 triumph.
They will now be hoping that the struggling Czech Republic does them a favor by beating Poland in Monday's second game at the Arena Riga because that is the only result that will allow the Greeks to
leapfrog the Poles and claim the fourth and final qualifying spot from Group E for the last eight.
|Zuzana Zirková contributed 13 points in the loss.|
"We deserved that win," Greece coach Kostas Missas said.
"The most difficult thing for my team was to find the spirit for this game as our qualification wasn't decided by this result.
"But my players found the spirit and did so."
Greece are unrecognizable from the side that tumbled out of the EuroBasket Women two years ago in Chieti, Italy, when they lost all three of their Preliminary Round games.
Missas has been a master at drawing up game-plans in Latvia and he needed a good one to beat Slovakia, the side that caused the biggest stir of this tournament by upsetting hosts Latvia in front of more than 6,000 fans on Saturday night.
Slovakia clinched a place in the Quarter-Finals with that victory but they wanted to win on Monday to keep the momentum going and grab a higher seed for the next phase of the competition.
"For us, our plan on defense was to pressure them for 40 minutes," Missas said.
"We had many problems on offense and that was due to Slovakia's pressing defense. But we were patient at the right moments."
The pressure defense of Greece led to many of Slovakia's 22 turnovers - the most they have committed in the competition so far.
"Congratulations to Greece," Slovakia coach Pokey Chatman said.
"This was a fine Greece team and it was a game between two strong teams. That is why the game was ugly at times but that is the credit of two teams that battled strong.
"We never quite got in the rhythm and that was a credit to Greece. When you turn the basketball over 22 times, you don't give yourself an opportunity."
Martina Gyurcsi and Zuzana Zirkova, the dynamic duo from the win over Latvia, didn't shine against the Greeks.
Gyurcsi (5pts) had five of her team's turnovers while Zirkova (13pts) had four turnovers.
"You learn a lot by winning, but also by losing games," Chatman said. "So we will analyze this game and look to our next one."
Maltsi has been one of the best, if not the best player at the EuroBasket Women.
The EuroLeague Women All-Star and the leading figure in USK Prague's Czech ZBL title winning campaign this season was four of nine from three-point range against Slovakia.
She is averaging 22.7 points per game in Latvia but is also averaging a competition best 3.3 steals. Number two is Anna Montanana of Spain, who is coming up with 2.6 steals per contest.
The challenge for Missas and Greece is to allow Maltsi to use her great talent to the full but within the team concept.
That part of the game-plan worked to perfection against the Slovaks because the impressive Pelagia Papamichail (9pts, 10rbs) only came up a point short of a double-double in scoring and rebounds and point guard Dimitra Kalentzou poured in 13 points while handing out five assists.
The Greeks may or may not stay in Latvia for the Quarter-Finals. If they don't, at least they will leave the Baltics with a good taste in their mouths after beating the Slovakians.