Greece defeated Great Britain on Friday night in the Leicester Arena thanks to a three-pointer from Ionnas Athinaiou in over time.
The game had started well for Great Britain, who were able to take leads early in the starter of the quarters but Greece was always able to peg them back. Greece demonstrated some terrific interior offence especially from Captain and center Ioannis Bourousis who was unflappable even with the dominating presence of GB center Dan Clark.
Clark made a great start to the contest bagging ten points before the half leading all scorers as the sides were level on 37 points after 20 minutes.
The second half had started well for GB with Teddy Okereafor and Andrew Lawrence pressing high up the court to disrupt the Greek offence to gain possession and score fastbreak points. Glasgow Rocks star Gareth Murray was in fine form for GB as he “played hard, played smart, played team basketball” and gave Greek defenders a massive headache.
Great Britain’s seven-point lead disintegrated during a tense spell of basketball in to end the third quarter and Greece went from strength to strength in the fourth quarter. Great Britain began to be frustrated whilst attacking the paint thanks to the almost impenetrable defending of Giannopoulos and Vasilopoulos. As Greece stretched their lead GB’s task got even harder as Luke Nelson fouled out, one of GB’s most important young guards. Nelson has struggled to find his feet in the game but was a big miss to GB none the less.
The final minute of play Great Britain were behind by ten points but with Vasilopoulos out of the game with a bloodied nose Phillip on his debut was able to hit a three-pointer which kick-started the GB fight back. GB was able to close the gap to five points but with 24 seconds to go Bourousis missed one of two free throws to give Greece a six-point advantage.
Dan Clark took a three that just missed and Murray was able to tip. GB fought hard on the inbound and was able to pin the Greeks to their half and Okereafor stole a pass and set up Murray for the dunk. It was the debutant Tarik Phillip who scored the equalising points. More strong defence from GB saw Lawrence able to steal the ball and find Phillip who layed up with 0.1 seconds on the clock to send the game to overtime.
In the overtime period, GB started brightly rushing into a lead thanks to Ovie Soko and Murray but a three from Athinaiou and a cool three from Bourousis right in the face of Clark kept Greece in touch. Great Britain held a one-point lead in the dying seconds but Athinaiou hit a difficult shot from deep despite cover from Okereafor to give Greece a last-gasp victory.
GB Head Coach Tony Garbelotto cut a frustrated figure post game; “That’s a win GB has to convert. I don’t care who they turn up with, that is a win we’ve got to convert. I just hope it doesn’t hurt us in the future”.
Great Britain head to Estonia on Monday night to play their second of six world cup qualifiers, whilst Greece faces Israel who tops the group.