Giuseppe Poeta and Daniele Cinciarini each had eight points in the fourth quarter to help Italy defeat Finland 88-80 and breathe some life into their EuroBasket 2009 qualifying campaign.
The Finns, thrashed on their own floor by Bulgaria on Saturday, trailed for most of the Group A game on Wednesday night against the Italians but made them sweat until the end.
They closed the gap to 75-72 after a Jukka Matinen three-pointer with just 3:42 remaining in the contest.
Poeta, a 1.90m point guard, went to the line and made two free throws and followed that up the next trip down the floor with a jumper for a seven-point Azzurri advantage.
Another basket from Luca Infante extended the lead to 81-72.
A Hanno Möttölä three-point play reduced the arrears to six for Finland, but Italy made seven of eight free throws over the final 1:15 to ice the win.
Italy began their Group A qualifying campaign with defeats to Serbia and Hungary so they are now 1-2.
Finland dropped to 0-2.
Poeta poured in 20 points and Cinciarini, who was a perfect three of three from long range, scored 15 for Italy.
Möttölä also had 20 in defeat for the Finns.
Both sides have crunch games coming up on Saturday. Italy face Bulgaria (2-0) while Finland take on Serbia (2-0).
Henrik Dettmann (Finland Head Coach): ""We canno't be satisfied of a loss but today we played a good game: we want to prove that we deserve the first group and we were to challenge Italy. We are collecting experiences, this group is very interesting and we have to play six more games. In Chieti we could win but we made stupid mistakes and we missed easy layups. I am not happy but I am proud of
this team". "
Hanno Mottola (Finland player): ""Yes, I played a good game but this is not important. The most important thing is that our team reacted after the terrible loss with Bulgary. We didn't play that game at all, it was terrible . I am sure we are a good group but now that we have recovered the confidence we need a win. The group is open, we had to try".
Carlo Recalcati (Italy Head coach): "We had to win this game, in order to get the qualification, and we did it. But we were also nervous, as we were supposed to be. So we played good from time to time. Giuseppe Poeta and Daniele Cinciarini, who are absolute beginners in this qualification, gave us the right push to win."
Giuseppe Poeta (Italy player): "It was so much important to win for us and suffering we were able to. We are a good group of players, but some of us do not have a great international experience, and we have to
improve our attitude during the difficult period of the game. I am very happy because coach Recalcati trusted in me."