In front of nearly 5,000 fans representing both teams, Greece pulled out a nailbiter of a win with Britain showing a worldwide audience just what they can do, in an 84-88 defeat.
A thrilling encounter was toe-to-toe throughout, with Britain highly competitive thanks to their energy and movement, providing Dan Clark with space for 9 points and nudging GB to a 22-22 score after the first quarter. Clark would eventually lead all scorers with 23 points as well as contribute eleven rebounds, Gabe Olaseni 20 points/seven rebounds and there was 13 points for Worthing’s 22 year-old Luke Nelson. Full stats are available.
The crowd were really starting to get into this but so too were the visitors who had only pulled out a four-point win behind closed doors on Friday night. 32-25 up with 7:15 remaining, Greece coach Kostas Missas woud have been proud of the way Nick Calathes pulled his side’s strings.
Gabe Olaseni was looking powerful at the post, while the industry of Teddy Okereafor ensured GB were a threat in the backcourt as well. Such a contest deserved to be close at the midway point and it was just that, GB down 44-46.
It was just as closely contested in the third quarter although a Papanikoulaou 3-point play took the visitors out to 58-51 in front, with 4:49 left. But Britain were only just getting into their stride, with a 14-1 run that lifted the home crowd and frustrated the travelling Greeks. A fascinating finale beckoned.
And so it proved. Papanikoulaou decided to smash Gareth Murray out of bounds, to earn a rather obvious unsportsmanlike call and while GB couldn’t take advantage from the stripe, Nelson cut the gap to 83-84 with 24.1 seconds left.
A Nelson steal gave Britain a chance to level in the last play and force overtime, but it was not to be and although the home team went down to defeat, a Copper Box crowd could not complain about the entertainment on offer.
Great Britain Head Coach Joe Prunty said, “It was a great game. We’ve had issues with turning the ball over but we’ve cleaned that up.”
“Defensively, some of the things they got were too easy in the paint and we had a few defensive breakdowns but overall it was a positive game, well fought and we’ve just got to learn from the mistakes we made.”
“I love what these guys do for each other, I love the level of commitment and it was a great game tonight. Are there things we can get better in? Sure, but we just played a great game tonight. This British Basketball programme is moving in the right direction.”