|14 July 2011|
U20 European Championship
Greece topped Austria 69-51 in Group C of the U20 European Championship in Bilbao, Spain on Thursday evening after a much tougher battle than the final score shows.
The win lifts Greece to a 1-0 record in their group, while Austria dropped to 0-1 despite being close to a shocking win.
Sokratis Psaropoulos and Linos Chrysikopoulos led Greece with 16 points each, while Spyridon Motsenigos had 11.
Psaropoulos did it in style by connecting all his 7 shots from the floor.
Anton Maresch led Austria with 15 points and Jozo Rados added 13 with 6 boards.
"In the first game of such a big tournament there's always nervousness, and we suffered from this as well today," said head coach of the winning side Konstantinos Missas.
"Our preparation wasn't very good because of some injuries. Some of them didn't make it here and one of our most important players, Dimitris Katsivelis, is here but didn't play today, so once he'll join us I hope we'll play better."
Austria didn't waste any time and took a 4-16 lead after 4:25 minutes, behind points by Rados and Maresch, while Greece still couldn't find their way into the game.
Chrysikopoulos started to move the Greek offense, and with back to back assists for three pointers by Motsenigos Greece was back in the game trailing just 14-16.
Maresch resumed Austria's scoring in time before the lead changed hands, and by the end of the first quarter Austria was up 21-18.
Chrisykopoulos hit a jumper, but that was the only field goal of Greece in the first six minutes of the 2nd quarter, as the underdogs still remained up, 25-23.
Psaropoulos combined 4 in a row to give Greece their first lead of the day, 30-29, yet Austria remained calm and with 5 points in a row made it 34-30 at the half time break.
Back from the locker rooms things didn't change as Austria kept a small yet steady lead.
Down 36-41 midway in the third quarter is when things started to look really bad for Greece as Chrysikopoulos committed an offensive foul which was his 4th personal and had to leave the court, only that turned out the be the turning point.
With their backs to the wall, down 38-43, is when the famous Greek defense popped up.
Step by step Greece collected 9 points in a row and now was back on top again, 47-43.
Austria still fought back and Maresch scored a long range bomb to set the score on 49-48 and just 5;31 to play, but that was the final tune of Austria today.
"We were doing great for more than three quarters but then things started to change," commented Werner Sallomon, head coach of Austria.
"I'm a bit disappointed because I really think we had a chance to win. I wasn't surprised at all but our lead, but in the last part of the game we lost focus and shots started to fall in for Greece and that was the bottom line."
Chrysikopoulos returned to the floor just in time, and scored the next 11 points of Greece, that set the score on 62-49 with 1:19 to play.
Coach Missas called for a time out to make sure his players won't stop until they get the maximum gap, and eventually capped a 20-3 run to get a good 18 point gap with the buzzer.
In Day 2 of the games Greece will take over the hosting team of Spain while Austria will seek their first win against the strong team of Turkey.