By Yarone Arbel
Turning point: Up by only six, 74-68, with three minutes to play it was time for Greece to step up, and their two best players of the night delivered. After Sofoklis Schortsanitis scored another power move and got a bonus from the line, he missed his shot but saw his team grab the ball. Vasilis Spanoulis finished that play with an off the dribble three-pointer and in 16 seconds made a close six point game into an 11 point difference.
Hero: Vasilis Spanoulis is a silent killer. He finished the game with 20 points on 66% shooting from the field, seven assists and four rebounds but from the outside it seemed like he was nothing more than OK game. The fact he also nailed the three pointer to decide the game, is a cherry on the cream, but one that makes a big difference.
Stats: 15 turnovers by Germany, compared to only ten by Greece, were enough to keep the win on the Greek side. Whenever Germany came close, and that happened several times especially in the last quarter, the Greek defense stepped up and forced another turnover to create easy points at the other end and stay on top.
Greece booked their place in Katowice with a hard fought 84-76 victory over Germany on the first day of Qualifying Round action in Bydgosszcz.
The win lifts Greece to a 3-0 record in the group, while Germany fell to 1-2.
The young fighters of Coach Dirk Bauermann of Germany deserve all the credits for a hard-nosed fight throughout the entire game.
|Heiko Schaffartzik led the way for Germany with 25 points, with 15 of them coming in the second half.|
The last lead for Germany was early in the game in the fourth minute, but for the other 36 minutes Greece never managed to surrender the German spirit and team play.
The largest margin was 13, early in the last quarter, yet 20-year-old Robin Benzing with 12 fourth quarter points showed why he was the top scorer of the U20 European Championship earlier this summer, and proved he can execute also against some of the best defenders in EuroBasket 2009.
Vasilis Spanoulis scored 20 points on 66% shooting including the three-pointer that secured the Greek win, in addition to seven assists and four rebounds.
Sofoklis Schortsanitis added 14 points while Antonios Fotsis and Nikos Zisis added 12 each.
Heiko Schaffartzik led the losing side with 23 points, 15 of them in the second half, and Benzing added 16.
"We played very well and we could have won the game, but at the end they kept making shots and always had answers for what we did," commented Schaffartzik in the press conference, words that were backed by the other side as well.
"Germany played a great game and gave us a lot of problems," confessed Coach Jonas Kazlauskas.
"The inside game was very difficult for both sides, and it shows they were very ready for this game.
"They controlled the tempo, which made it very difficult for us to play them," he summarized.
Once again the first bucket of Greece came from a post up move of Bouroursis, but Femerling answered right away on the other end.
Nikos Zisis drew three early fouls from Steffan Hamann after just four minutes, but Germany continued to be in foul trouble, and reached no less than 13 personal fouls after one quarter.
"We executed our game plan very well, as we wanted to play as smart and aggressive as Greece does," revealed Coach Bauermann.
"Maybe we were too aggressive in the first minutes, and it cost us with a lot of quick fouls that allowed Greece to open a gap, and when you allow Greece to take such lead, it's very difficult to come back.
"I think starting too aggressive was the only major mistake we made today."
Three point and second chance shots kept the players of Coach Bauermann in the game, but Spanoulis and Schortsanitis scored the last nine points for their team in the quarter to make it 25-19 after ten minutes.
Jagla missed open shots from distance and the Greek defense started to create casualties with back to back German turnovers to set the difference on 29-19 after 13 minutes.
The young Tibor Pleis added four points before the break and good presence in the paint, and with a huge offensive rebound of Harris carried Germany back into the game, 35-31.
Greece answered with back-to-back three-pointers by Perperoglou and Zisis and the teams entered the break divided by eight, 41-33.
"In the start of the third quarter for no reason our defense relaxed," shared Zisis.
'We let them score some easy baskets on pick-and-roll and one-on-one situations, and that allowed them to come back into the game."
The German bigs added points from inside (Femerling) and on the arc (Sven Schultze) to cut the margin to only four, 49-45 after five minutes in the second half, but things were still under control for Greece.
Georgios Printezis and points in the paint by Kostas Koufos and Schortsanitis set the margin on its highest shelf again at 12, 57-45, and after the massive Schortsanitis added a monster dunk it was time for Germany to call for a time out, before things got out of hand, deep in the third.
Benzing hit a nice jumper, added two from the line and now it was time for Coach Kazlauskas to ask for a time out, up by only seven, 66-59 with the same amount of minutes on the clock.
Benzing was on fire and after a big three pointer finished with great footwork to cut the difference to only four, 70-66, but that was as close as Germany ever came.
Up by six Schortsanitis completed another power move, and earned a bonus from the line.
He missed the shot, but Greece were first on the rebound, enough for Spanoulis to convert a three pointer and set the margin on 11 with 2:21 to play.
Benzing still cut on the lead, but it was already too late for his team.
"It was a really good game for both teams," said Benzing to the press.
"In the end we made some stupid mistakes that cost us the game.
"They just hit their shots in the right time and that's why they won the game," he concluded.
On Sunday Greece will play Russia while Germany will try to grab a win against F.Y.R. of Macedonia.