Finland still in contention at Europeans
VILNIUS, Lithuania -- Finland put itself in position to reach the quarterfinals of the European basketball championship for the first time, using its perimeter shooting to beat Georgia 87-73 on Saturday.
Mikko Koivisto scored 14 points -- including four 3-pointers -- as Finland knocked down a total of 13 of 26 from beyond the arc to stay in contention for a spot in the knockout round. The Finns now need to beat Slovenia in its final second-round group game on Monday to reach the last eight and give itself a chance to improve on its previous best finish of sixth from 1967. Back then, the continental tournament didn't feature a quarterfinal format.
Koivisto led six Finnish players in double figures, with Petteri Koponen and Kotti Tukka both adding 12.
"That shows the depth of our team and the philosophy of our game," Finland coach Henrik Dettmann said.
Also Saturday, already qualified Macedonia kept its surprisingly strong run going by defeating Slovenia 68-59 behind Bo McCalebb's 19 points.
Russia beat Greece 83-67 in the late game, with both teams having already secured advancement.
Finland came out firing from a distance from the start, making four of its first five 3s and never switching tactics after that. When they did miss, the Finns made sure to give themselves second chances -- finishing with a total of 17 offensive rebounds.
"We knew this was a must-win situation," Koivisto said. "Our 3-point percentage allowed us to have this victory."
Finland spent years competing in Europe's B division and only qualified for this event after clinching one of two spots in an additional qualifying tournament.
Georgia was eliminated with the loss, and clearly missed Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia and point guard George Tsintsadze, who are out with injuries.
"Our system was based on Zaza," Georgia coach Igor Kokoskov said. "We are upset, but we are realistic about where we are. We knew we were not going to win the tournament from Day 1, but we played hard every game."
Macedonia will now play Russia for first place in the group, a major achievement for the small Balkan nation that was considered an outsider coming into the tournament. Macedonia finished ninth two years ago.
McCalebb, who was born in New Orleans and received Macedonian citizenship last year, has led the team throughout the tournament and was helped by 14 points from Vlado Ilievski against the Slovenians.
"We continue to surprise everyone," Ilievski said. "We played a very good game from the start, very mature, very confident. That's what makes us a contender."
Center Timofey Mozgov led Russia with 19 points, making 7 of 8 shots from the field, and Aleksey Shved had 15.
With Russia up by nine with over two minutes left, Sergey Monya connected with two consecutive 3s -- his only two shots of the game -- to put it away.
Center Kostas Koufos led Greece with 15 points.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
2011 FIBA TOURNAMENTS
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