Greece Put Away Hosts, Move Into Title Game

17 July 2010

Reigning champions Greece will defend their title in the showpiece game of the U20 European Championship Men 2010 after they punched their ticket for the Final of the tournament with a comfortable 71-56 win over hosts Croatia.

While it left something of an anti-climatic feel inside the Kresimir Cosic Hall as the disappointed home fans reflected on what might have been, Greece thoroughly deserved their win with Nikos Pappas pouring in another 23 points as well as grabbing eight rebounds.

However perhaps best summing up the approach and team ethic of Greece was the cameo performance of Evangelos Mantzaris. The guard defended the dangerous Toni Prostran effectively and also weighed in with a pivotal 12 points, 4 assists and 2 steals (watch his postgame reaction here).

Croatia actually got off to an impressive start as dunks by Dino Butorac and Mario Delas helped them into an early 17-9 lead. However their joy was short-lived as Greece put together a 14-2 run either side of the first and second quarter break to assert control - as it turned out, or the rest of the game.

When Pappas dished off to Papanikolaou for a nice baseline move, Greece had surged 28-21 in front and were threatening to get away from the hosts. However six unanswered points for Croatia got them to within a point of Greece but they wouldn't score for the last four minutes leading up to the half and finished with only eight points in the entire period.

Greece were hardly prolific themselves and therefore only held a 32-27 advantage as they left the court at the break. The offensive problems of Croatia continued early in the third quarter as Greece increased the margin to double-figures at 38-27 until Butorac converted from the corner - much to the relief of the Zadar locals. 

There was even more reason for them to cheer as the hometown favourites then held Greece to over four minutes with a basket and found themselves only behind by five points at 49-44 with a minute to go in the third.

However successive Greek baskets put a different complexion on the game entering the last ten minutes. Croatia held firm but with Delas on the bench, Pappas delivered a major psychological dagger with six minutes remaining when he drilled a triple from the corner to make it 60-50.

As hard as they tried, Croatia couldn't repeat the heroics of their previous game against Serbia and Greece never looked to be in any serious threat of missing out on the chance of going for back-to-back gold medals.

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