Macedonia win on independence day

Macedonia win on independence day
By Reuters

08/09/2011 at 16:53Updated 08/09/2011 at 23:03

Macedonia celebrated independence day by qualifying for the Eurobasket quarter-finals for the first time with a dramatic 65-63 win over Georgia.

Playing in only their third major event and 20 years to the day after the referendum that declared its independence, the tournament's surprise packages earned their fifth straight win thanks to another magnificent performance by American-born point guard Lester Bo McCalebb.

The playmaker, who has shone throughout the tournament, scored a game-high 27 points including a game-winning basket when he tore through a packed Georgian defence with a crossover drive which left his markers bedazzled.

"It's a great feeling to be Macedonian these days and I am proud to be playing for this country," a delighted McCalebb said after celebrating the win with his team mates.

"The incredible support we are getting from our fans is giving me an extra motive and I never thought I would become so popular with Macedonians.

"I will keep playing my heart out for Macedonia for the rest of the tournament," said McCalebb, buoyed by news that Macedonian fans painted a giant image of him in the Skopje city centre.

Greece, the 2005 winners, revived their hopes of reaching the last eight after beating Slovenia 69-60 in a see-saw battle.

With both teams playing in fits and starts, Greece point guard Nikolaos Zisis swung the contest with a pair of three-pointers in the final minute, finishing with a game-high 19 points.

The winners and runners-up of Eurobasket 2011 will qualify automatically for the Olympics along with hosts Britain, while the next four in line will enter an inter-continental 12-team playoff for another three berths next year.