Nikos Pappas made 9 of 12 free throws in the final 1:35 and Georgios Bogris collected 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks to guide hosts Greece into the Semi-Finals of the U20 European championship with a 77-68 victory over Croatia.
Pappas led all scorers with 18 points while Kostas Sloukas added 16 points, six rebounds and four assists and Kostas Papanikolaou chipped in 12 points for the Greeks, who will face Spain in Saturday's semis.
"We were more focused than them. And we are the better team than them. And that's why we won," said Bogris, who also had three blocks.
|Georgios Bogris had another big night for Greece.|
"You can't forget them about 75 percent of this team came to the team from New Zealand and game by game we are getting better," said the coach.
"We played great defense tonight and kept them 15 points under their scoring average for the tournament."
Greece will next face Spain, a team they beat just a couple days ago in the Qualifying Round. But this will be another contest as Spain will have star center Pablo Aguilar playing after missing the earlier game.
"This will be a different game with (Pablo Aguilar) playing this time. If we focus on what coach says we can beat them," said Bogris.
Bojan Bogdanovic led Croatia with 14 points while Karlo Vragovic added 12 points, Miro Bilan had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Marko Radic scored 10 points in a losing effort.
It was a tight contest in the first quarter with Greece staying in the game with three-pointers. Croatia's inside-outside combination of Bilan and Bogdanovic gave Darko Kunce's team the biggest lead of the quarter at 21-17. And Leonidas Kaselakis's triple cut the Croatia lead to 21-20 after one period.
There were five lead changes to start the second quarter until Greece went ahead 26-25. Missas's men pushed the advantage to five points on two occasions before Croatia cut the deficit to 35-33 at halftime.
Croatia continued to fight and knotted the game at 42-42 on Vragovic's three-pointer. But a series of tough driving layups - two ending in three-point plays - broke the will of the Croatians, who watched Greece score eight straight points and eventually push the gap to 55-46 after three periods.
Kunce's team pulled to within 55-50 early in the fourth quarter but Papanikolaou grabbed a steal for a break-away dunk and Zisis Sarikopoulos hit inside to push the margin back to 61-50. The Croatians would close back to within six points before Pappas secured the victory.