Greece took home the silver medal at the FIBA U/19 Basketball World Championships on Sunday in Auckland, after an honourable 80-88 loss in the final against the USA.

The 2008 European champions climbed as far as the silver medal podium, a tremendous achievement for Giorgios Vlassopoulos and his ‘golden Greeks’.

It was a tight beginning between the two sides, with both teams scoring relatively easy and trading baskets for the duration of the first quarter. Greece managed to dictate the speed, with the score at 19-19 at the first break.

After the tense opening, the Greeks never recovered from a horror patch in the second quarter, during which the margin got to 15 points the difference (35-20).
The USA went on a 16-1 run, completely shutting down Greece in the opening four minutes of the period.

Greece forced their offensive plays, resulting in rushed and inaccurate shooting, while the trade mark defence failed to slow down USA’s multiple shooting options.

The third quarter, however, saw a determined Greece take to the court. Greece went on 12-4 run, with five turnovers (three steals) and two huge defensive blocks as the brilliant defence began unravelling the USA’s attacking options.

Incredibly at the death of the 3rd quarter, the ever-reliable Vlantimir Giankovits missed three free throws for Greece, which would have made the difference just six points at the final change.

In the fourth quarter, Greece again applied pressure to the USA, as Kostas Sloukas and Kostas Papanikolaou hit massive three-pointers.

A steal from captain Nikolaos Pappas released Sloukas on a fast break, but his lay-up was blocked. The field goal would have given Greece an 8-0 run and a six point deficit.

But the USA held on to a famous victory, as they captured their country’s first U/19 gold medal since 1991. In the bronze medal match, Croatia was too good for Australia, winning 81-87.

Greece 84 – Australia 69

Greece made it through to the final of the basketball U/19 World Championships after trouncing the highly fancied Australia 84-69 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Australia’s 7-0 undefeated record collapsed in resounding circumstances, as the Emus had no answers for a rampant Greek offence and their famously tight defence.
It appeared as if the young Greek guns have been saving their best for last.

Despite having dropped two matches (against Lithuania and USA) earlier in the tournament, Greece dismantled Argentina in fairly clinical fashion in Friday night’s quarterfinal.
“We were ready,” said star Greece guard Pappas who led his team’s well-balanced scoring with 19 points (6/15 FG).

“Our game starts on defence. We knew if we were able to play good defence we could win the game. We started very good on defence and they couldn’t make any baskets. That’s what won us the game.”

Pappas has been one of the players of the tournament, averaging 15.5 points per game and leading Greece in that statistic.

Australian forward Cody Ellis, said his team mates were helpless against the Greek intensity.

“We knew they’d come out strong – they did and we just couldn’t do anything about it,” he said.

“We struggled with all their penetration, from their guards and their bigs. If we had of controlled that I think it would have been a closer game.”

By half time, Greece had established a 13 point lead, and a 21-14 third term saw this lead balloon out to 20 points.

Papanikolaou was arguably Greece’s best, finishing with 18 points (7/14 FG), 10 rebounds, four blocks and three steals. Leonidas Kaselakis had 13 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks, while Giankovits weighed in with 16 points (6/9 FG) and nine boards.