Greece overturn 15-point deficit to snatch Second Round ticket

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MANILA (Philippines) – There are holes, and then there’s whatever Greece dug themselves into against New Zealand. They were down by 15 points before climbing out with a sublime second half in the Mall of Asia Arena, winning the game¬†83-74¬†to claim the last ticket to the Second Round from Group C. Greece thus avoided their worst finish ever, because they reached the sweet 16 phase in each of their previous eight appearances at the summit. Make that nine now!

New Zealand’s defeat was celebrated in Okinawa, since Australia advanced to the next round, they claimed the Oceania ticket to the Olympics in Paris.Whatever Dimitris Itoudis told his players in the locker room at halftime, it must have been inspiring. All of a sudden Greece forced New Zealand to commit consecutive turnovers, without even allowing them to take a shot for a couple of minutes in the third quarter. That alone was enough to start trimming the gap to single digits, then to two-possessions, then to one possession, and when Giannoulis Larentzakis scored eight points to start the fourth quarter, the majority of 5,625 in attendance could breathe a sigh of relief.

Greek fans came in numbers and got to see an outstanding effort on both ends to get out of that 15-point deficit and into the Second Round. Ioannis Papapetrou loves playing against New Zealand. His previous World Cup career-high was 16 points against New Zealand in 2019, and he kept Greece in this one in the first half, before getting a huge couple of shots in the fourth quarter to help Larentzakis’ charge. Papapetrou finished with a team-high 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-7 from deep, and he had 6 rebounds as well.

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