Greece secured the final spot from Group C for the second round and made a comeback to eliminate New Zealand, 83-74, in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Wednesday.
Hellas will face Lithuania on Friday to kick off the second round.
Following New Zealand’s defeat, Australia has secured qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
At halftime, the Tall Blacks led by 11 points at 43-32, but the second half saw a transformed Greek team emerge from the locker room.
Demonstrating their prowess as the 9th-ranked team, Greece outscored New Zealand 18-11 in the third quarter, narrowing the gap to four points entering the final quarter, 50-54.
The momentum of the rally carried into the fourth quarter as Giannoulis Larentzakis, Thomas Walkup, and Ioannis Papapetrou of Hellas sank deep shots, propelling them to a 73-61 lead at the 3:49 mark.
“The fact that we talked a lot on halftime and we said we gotta find a different way. The first half, we were playing wrong and we realized that,” said head coach Dimitrios Itoudis.
Shea Ili attempted to lead the late charge for the Tall Blacks, reducing the deficit to four points with 33 seconds remaining, at 74-78, but it was insufficient and arrived too late.
Papapetrou led the offensive charge for Hellas with 27 points and six rebounds, while Larentzakis contributed 20 points. Walkup narrowly missed a double-double with 10 points and nine assists, and Georgios Papagiannis along with Kostas Papanikolaou each provided eight points.
Greece had only 11 players available after Dinos Mitoglou was ruled out for the rest of the tournament due to a fractured pinky finger on his left hand.
Ili led New Zealand with 27 points, eight assists, and five rebounds, while Reuben Te Rangi added 19 points and five rebounds.
The Tall Blacks will have less than 24 hours to recover as they are set to face Mexico tomorrow in the classification phase.
Greece 83 – Papapetrou 27, Larentzakis 20, Walkup 10, Papagiannis 8, Papanikolaou 8, Lountzis 5, Rogkavopoulos 3, Antetokounmpo 2, Moraitis 0, Bochoridis 0.
New Zealand 74 – Ili 27, Te Rangi 19, Delany 10, Ngatao 9, Fotu 5, Wetzell 4, Le’Afa 0, Cameron 0, Smith-Milner 0.
Quarterscores: 15-20, 32-43, 50-54, 83-74.