Estonia lost their final group game at the 2022 men's EuroBasket Championships 69-90 against Greece on Thursday. Greece, who are favorites to win this year's EuroBasket, finished top of Group C, while Estonia ended in fifth place, exiting the tournament.
Greece started the game strongly, ending the first quarter with a six-point lead at 27-21 and in the second quarter, their dominance really began to show. Star player Giannis Antetokounmpo, who plays in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks, scored 25 points alone by halftime, to leave the Estonians trailing 31-56.
The story continued in much the same vain in the third quarter, with the Greeks outscoring the Estonians 26-13 to open up the points gap to 38 between the two sides.
In the final quarter, Estonia managed to outscore their opponents 20-13, However, it was too little, too late, as the game ended 90-69 to the Greek team.
In an otherwise perfect evening for Greece, fans will have been concerned to see Antetokounmpo sit out the end of the game on the bench, with an ice pack strapped to his knee. However, it appears to have been a precautionary measure, with Greek coach Dimitris Itoudis telling Associated Press that Antetokounmpo was "all good."
Antetokounmpo finished as the game's top scorer on 25 points, plus five rebounds and four assists. Estonia's highest scorer was Siim-Sander Vene who scored 19 points, with Kerr Kriisa also adding 12 points to the tally.
After the game, Vene, admitted that there was a huge gulf in class between the two sides, but was more disappointed at the narrow defeats to Ukraine and Croatia earlier in the competition, which ultimately cost Estonia a place in the next round.
"It's hard to say that there was no class divide," Vene told ERR. "We were on the back foot the whole game and there was quite a big gap for most of it. It's hard to say we were the better side," Vene said.
"To some extent you hope and aim to progress, but those two narrow defeats will stay with me for a long time, he said. "But, that's just how it goes."
Vene still believes that the EuroBasket was a good experience for Estonia, with the young squad taking onboard many valuable lessons that will help them to develop in the future.
"It was a very good learning process for the youngsters. For the first time, they got to experience first-hand the difference between playing against the unfavored teams and the strongest teams. A few of the guys were disappointed with their performances, but they definitely learned some valuable lessons. I hope they will get a lot of game time at their home clubs, so they can keep moving forward in the future," Vene said.
Greek head coach Dimitris Itoudis also paid tribute to the Estonian team, as well as the fans who travelled to Milan to support them.
"First of all, I have to praise your team, which showed a very strong fighting spirit at the European Championship," said Itoudis. "Unfortunately, you didn't make it out of the group, but you showed a different approach. And your fans! There were 3,000 to 3,500 Estonians in the hall and they created a great atmosphere. It seems that basketball is a sport that Estonians love," he added.
Greece will now face the Czech Republic in the round of 16 on Sunday, September 11. The match starts at 13:00 Estonian time.
Editor: Michael Cole