Georgia reduced 19-points difference in the third period but couldn't defeat Finland
After starting the EuroBasket 2022 qualification tournament with 4 victories, the Georgian team coached by Ilias Zouros lost the last 2 matches and finally took the 2nd place in Group E. This place would have brought our team a ticket to the European Championship, but Ilias Zouros’ team had fulfilled this mission before the start of the games, because our country is one of the hosts of the upcoming EuroBasket and like Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, Georgia is guaranteed to play in the continental championship.
Georgia held the last 2 matches in Tbilisi. It was not originally planned so, however, due to the Covid-Pandemic FIBA had to change the format and already held a second window in an isolated environment, with the so-called “bubble” system. In the first isolated window Zouros’ team won both matches in Finland (defeated Finland and Switzerland). The second “bubble” was hosted by Tbilisi, but Georgia was not lucky in its own walls. Our team wasn’t able to gather an optimal roster and plus, Connor Frankamp – a new naturalized American player, was injured in the first game and could not finish the match against Serbia and, obviously, could not play against Finland either.
After the injury of Frankamp, the back line of our team was left to rely entirely on Super League players. The role of the main point guard was given to Givi Baqradze, a Vera member, and Merab Bokolishvili from Rustavi was playing with him in the back line. Georgian National Team had troubles with Finland at first, because the latter was very lucky in three-pointers and played more accurate and fast basketball.
In the first period, the Finns scored 6 out of 10 three-pointers and deservedly took the lead – 30:17. At the beginning of the second quarter, the defense of the Georgian team became even more aggressive and the Finns found it difficult to shoot from the perimeter.
However, the Georgians did not succeed in the attack as well and only 4 points were scored in the first 3 minutes. The Finns continued to play with excessive aggression, they did not avoid fouls, the referees also gave them right to play hard and a number of fouls were not recorded against Giorgi Shermadini. This is what the head coach of our team Ilias Zouros demanded, but the referees gave him a technical foul.
The Finns shot only three three-pointers in the second quarter and scored none, but still managed to increase the difference at the expanse of quick attacks and long range two-pointers. Finland advanced 49:30 after the second period, thus making a loud statement on victory.
The third period was the supremacy of Georgian basketball. Ilias Zouros’ team eliminated the 19-point difference in 10 minutes and met the last period with an equal score – 57:57. How did the Georgians manage to do that? First of all by fighting and doing their best in defense. Olimpi combo-forward Kakha Jintcharadze narrowed the Finnish sniper Sasu Salin as much as possible, and the defense of Georgia became an insurmountable barrier for the Scandinavians.
Reliable defense paved the way for the attack as well. Duda Sanadze, Beka Burjanadze, Mikheil Berishvili and Giorgi Shermadini were gaining scores. They were helped by substitute players Beqa Beqauri and Saba Lobjanidze at one time. After the effective breakout of the latter, the score was equalized at the last minute of the third period – 57:57.
It is said that whoever wins the third period, wins the game, but unfortunately for us, it was not justified in today’s match. Despite the 27:8 victory in the third ten minutes, the Georgians had complications again in the last quarter. The Finns turned the whole defensive line towards Shermadini, who could not get an assist, plus made a few rough mistakes and lost the match again after a reversal of the actually handcuffed game.
In the last minutes, Zouros’ team repeatedly had a good moments to get involved in the winning battle again, but sometimes they weren’t lucky, sometimes they made technical mistakes and the Finns won eventually – 78:70 (statistics). Veltonen and Erik Murphy showed the best results with 14-14 points from Scandinavians.
Giorgi Shermadini had the best result in the Georgian team, who scored 19 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Duda Sanadze collected 18 points and 5 rebounds. Beqa Burjanadze had 11 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals. Mikheil Berishvili scored 3/4 three-pointers and collected 9 points. Merab Bokolishvili helped our team with 6 points.
As a result, Georgia and Serbia gained 4 victories and 2 losses in Group E. However, due to the better ratio of balls in the mutual matches, Serbia took the first place. Before Georgia hosts the Eurobasket in 2022, our national team will be involved in the qualification stage of the World Cup 2023 next August.