In a thrilling encounter against Iceland, Georgia made history by securing their first-ever appearance in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Despite losing 80-77 at home, Georgia’s third-place finish in Group L of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 European Qualifiers was enough to lock in their spot on the global stage.
Georgian stars Toko Shengelia, Giorgi Shermadini, and Thad McFadden combined for 60 points in the game, etching their names into Georgian basketball history forever. Shengelia, who scored 20 points, collected six rebounds, and dished out five assists, described the game as the most emotional he has ever played with the national team.
McFadden added 17 more points, including four three-pointers, and expressed satisfaction with the result. I’m so thrilled you can’t imagine. I may goof around and cry because I am so happy. This means so much to everyone, the speaker added.
Georgian coach Ilias Zouros praised Shengelia’s performance throughout the window, which also saw him score 25 points in a road victory over the Netherlands. Zouros called Shengelia the “biggest patriot in the world” for his efforts and dedication to the team.
The event, in his opinion, was the pinnacle of his basketball career, according to the Greek coach, who has been coaching since 1986. The Georgian team has been led by Zouros since 2016.
While Georgia has become a staple on the European continent, making the last five FIBA EuroBaskets and even co-hosting the tournament in 2022, their journey to the FIBA Basketball World Cup was finally complete after the absolute thriller against Iceland in the Georgian capital.
Georgia’s stronger overall goal differential in the group allowed them to survive a loss by three points thanks to an 88-85 victory over Iceland back in the November 2022 timeframe. The margin fluctuated between two points for Georgia and three for Iceland throughout the third quarter of the deciding game, though, as Iceland gave Georgia a fight for their money.
In the fourth quarter, Iceland reeled off five points in 32 seconds to reach the crucial four-point lead – which they needed to advance. However, Georgia fought back, with Shengelia’s two free throws followed by a McFadden three-pointer putting them up 76-75 with 45 seconds to play.
When George Tsintsadze missed his only free throw with 12 seconds left, Jon Axel Gudmundsson made it 80-77 with 10.8 remaining after Hlinason had responded with a three-point play. Shengelia had an opportunity to make things difficult for Iceland, but she missed both of her free throw attempts. As a result, Georgia was able to qualify for Asia since Fridriksson’s three-point attempt was off-target.
Shermadini led the squad in scoring with 23 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting performance and six rebounds. Zouros feels that this qualification would strengthen the national basketball scene.
In conclusion, Georgia’s qualification for the FIBA Basketball World Cup is a historic moment for the country and its basketball community.