Finland continued its Cinderella story at the FIBA European Basketball Championships on Monday, winning its fourth game out of five. They defeated Greece by a score of 86 to 77. Known as the ‘Wolf Pack’, the Wolves were led by Petteri Koponen, a 25-year-old who plays for the Russian team Khimki. Koponen scored 29 points.
Second was Kimmo Muurinen with 15 points, followed by Tuukka Kotti with 14.
Third was Shawn Huff with 13 points. He is one of Finland's two stars whose American fathers played basketball in Finland. Shawn Huff and Gerald Lee Jr were both born in Finland in the ‘80s, and have both played college basketball in the US. Lee added four points during Monday’s game.
Never a powerhouse
Going into the game, Finland was ranked third in Group D, ahead of Russia, Turkey and Sweden – all of whom the ‘Wolf Pack’ defeated in the first week’s play. Topping the table were Italy – the only team to beat Finland so far – and Greece, who are ranked fourth in the world. On Saturday, the Italians handed the Finns their first loss, 62-44.
To progress from the group stage, Finland need to finish in the top three of their pool of six teams. They are already guaranteed to finish at least second, so they are through to the next round.
Finland has never been a basketball powerhouse. Its best showing ever in EuroBasket was in 1967, when it hosted the biannual event and placed sixth. In 2011, the last time the tournament was held, Finland ended up in ninth place.
This year’s championships, which began last Wednesday, roll on until 22 September.