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08 September 2015
EUROBASKET 2015
7. Sten Sokk (Estonia)
"Let's take it step-by-step. We need to play better each game" - Sten Sokk

By Joe Hewison

The Estonian mood was one of determination rather than celebration following their historic EuroBasket success against Ukraine in Riga, Latvia on Monday.

Tiit Sokk's side were unrecognisable from the one comfortably beaten by Czech Republic and Belgium in their opening two games and produced a fantastic team effort to secure their first victory at a EuroBasket final round since 1993.

The thousands of Estonian fans in attendance made their delight known inside and outside Arena Riga after the triumph, but point guard Sten Sokk still harboured frustration that it had taken until the third game for his team to show what they are capable of.

"The win is great, don't get me wrong, but the two first losses are still weighing heavily on my shoulders right now so I cannot feel complete fulfilment," said Sokk, the son of head coach Tiit Sokk, who is playing alongside his brother Tanel.

Estonias Fan
"They came here to see us, not even necessarily to see us win, but they came to see us fight and hopefully they saw us fight" - Sten Sokk on the fans who have travelled to Riga

"We didn't get in the game as quickly as we should have and let the opponents do what they wanted in the first five minutes and that was the game.

"We are inexperienced when it comes to this place, the EuroBasket final round, and as a roster we seem a bit weaker than the other teams so if the other teams get going and get their confidence, it's really difficult for us."

Estonia fell behind against Ukraine too as Jerome Randle helped establish a 10-point half-time advantage for his team.

But Estonia stuck with the gameplan, continued to push the ball on the break while letting fly from long range and 13 third-quarter points from Gregor Arbet put them in front.

Sten Sokk and others still had to come up with big shots down the stretch as Ukraine rallied, but they clung on for a win that gives them something to build on.

"Let's take it step-by-step. We need to play better each game," added Sten Sokk.

"We don't need to think about winning or losing. If we play our game and we play it well then we can hold our heads up high after this tournament."

Estonia Head Coach Tiit Sokk
Estonia Head Coach Tiit Sokkis leading Estonian basketball on an upward trajectory

The Estonian supporters, who have transformed Arena Riga into a see of blue during their team's games, can certainly be pleased with their performance.

The volume increased with every point added to the Estonian tally in the final stages of the game against Ukraine and while Sten Sokk admits there are two sides to such support, he was pleased to send them home happy.

"It makes it as special as it is hard for us that we lost the first two games like we did," he admitted.

"If we lose it's twice as a bad, but if we win, it's very good.

"They came here to see us, not even necessarily to see us win, but they came to see us fight and hopefully they saw us fight."

Fighting against the odds when facing much larger and more established basketball nations is part of the challenge for Estonia.

But with former Panathinaikos guard and Olympic champion Tiit Sokk at the helm they are in good hands and on an upward curve.

Qualification for EuroBasket 2015 was achieved through the first qualification round back in 2013, punching a ticket for their first appearance at the competition since 2001.

Their impressive backing in Riga also demonstrates the popularity of the sport in the Baltic nation and the potential for further progress in the coming years.

Sten Sokk recognises this trend, but will not be satisfied until the current crop play to their peak at this competition.

"It has been going uphill for the past five or six years, especially youth basketball," he said.

"I hope this gives everybody motivation but we need to go step-by-step and play even better.

"I'm happy, but I'm never happy all the way."

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