Friday , Sep , 01 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Greek tragedy: Americans lose in World Championships

Saitama, Japan (Sports Network) – The United States men’s basketball team fell
short of its goal to win the title at the World Basketball Championships, as
the hot-shooting Greeks pulled off a 101-95 victory over the Americans in the
semifinals.

Vasileios Spanoulis scored 22 points and Michail Kakiouzis added 15 for
Greece, which shot a sizzling 62.5 percent from the floor to pull off the
upset. The Greeks, however, are not a basketball lightweight, having won the
European championship in 2005.

Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points for the United States, while Dwyane Wade
chipped in 19. The Americans shot 50 percent from the field overall, but
struggled from three-point range and from the free throw line.

The U.S. made only 9-of-28 shots from beyond the arc and hit just 20-of-34
foul shots for a dismal 58.8 percentage.

Greece will now play for the gold medal Sunday against Spain, which posted a
75-74 victory over Argentina in Friday’s other semifinal. The Americans will
face Argentina for the bronze medal on Saturday.

In addition, the United States will have to qualify for the 2008 Olympics next
summer in Venezuela at the FIBA Americas Tournament.

Both teams were unbeaten entering the semifinals and the Americans appeared
headed toward the title game after taking a 20-14 lead following the first
quarter.

Greece, though, heated up over the next three quarters.

The United States held a 33-21 edge midway through the second period, but the
Greeks answered with nine straight points as part of a 22-5 run. Sofoklis
Schortsanitis had eight points during the surge, which gave Greece a 43-38
advantage.

The Greeks went into the break with a 45-41 lead, then turned it up a notch in
the third quarter. Greece drained 14-of-18 field goal attempts in the period
and led by as many as 14 before taking a 77-65 cushion into the fourth.

The United States chipped away in the final stanza and clawed within 95-91
with 36 seconds to play on a three-pointer by Kirk Hinrich, but the Greeks
were able to hold on.

Hinrich made 4-of-7 shots from behind the arc and finished with 12 points.
LeBron James contributed 17 points, five rebounds and five assists in defeat.

The Americans have not won a world championship since 1994.