Greece, Croatia, New Zealand, Slovenia win in Olympics qualifier

ATHENS, Greece -- Greece had an easy time before a home crowd Monday and was joined by winners Croatia, New Zealand and Slovenia in a 12-nation basketball tournament that serves as a qualifier for the Beijing Olympics.

Greece routed Lebanon 119-62; Croatia defeated Cameroon 93-79; New Zealand downed Cape Verde 77-50; and Slovenia beat South Korea 88-76.

The other countries bidding for the three remaining Olympic berths are: Brazil, Canada, Germany and Puerto Rico. The Athens tournament ends Sunday.

Nine nations have already qualified for next month's Beijing Games: Angola, Argentina, Australia, China, Iran, Lithuania, Russia, Spain and the United States.

On Tuesday, it's Slovenia vs. Canada; Cape Verde vs. Germany; Cameroon vs. Puerto Rico; and Lebanon vs. Brazil.

Greece shot 73 percent for the game and was backed by Kostas Tsartsaris with 15 points.

"Sometimes when you start a tournament, especially in front of an adoring crowd, you become nervous and you make hasty decisions," Greek coach Panagiotis Yannakis said. "This did not happen to us, as it has in other times."

Lebanon was held to 41 percent shooting, 32 percent on 3-point attempts.

"We are in the most difficult group of the tournament," Lebanon coach Fuad Abou Chakra said. "I am sure both Brazil and Greece will reach the semifinals, and Greece has set very high goals for the Beijing Olympics."

Croatia defeated Cameroon behind 22 points by guard Marko Tomas.

"I am not satisfied by the fact that our opponents scored many points," Croatia coach Jasmin Repesa said.

Croatia opened the second quarter with a 16-2 run that turned a three-point lead into a 35-18 advantage. Cameroon never got closer than nine points the rest of the way. Tomas hit a 3-pointer with 3 minutes remaining to put Croatia ahead 84-70 and seal the win.

Cameroon's coach and players alluded to problems with their country's federation.

"I don't know what will happen," Cameroon coach Lazare Adingono said. "I am not certain we will play tomorrow. It is a sad situation."

Cape Verde was outclassed by New Zealand, which overcame American-born Jeff Xavier's 22 points.

"This was our first game at that level," Cape Verde coach Eric Silva said. "There is a big difference in quality between the two teams."