The boys with the banner may have been a touch over-confident but Ukraine knew they were entering the lion’s den on Sunday as once more Bilbao became Helsinki South. A third quarter barrage by Finland put Mike Fratello’s charges in a deep hole. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk led a spirited comeback but the Finns stood tall and hung on through the fourth to take their first win of the World Cup. Emmet Ryan was on the scene.
The tone was set early. This place was loud and it was pro Finland. Shawn Huff three. Place erupts. Ukraine stopped on next possession. Place gets louder. Another score for the Finns. The seats rattle. It took a Pooh Jeter score to end a solid minute of Finnish fury in the stands. Far more importantly, Huff made a second three, and then a third, to force Mike Fratello to call a timeout. If the Finns were going to pull the upset here they needed threes and steals from the off. Whereas on Saturday he was stoic until the final frame, the Ukraine coach was already geeing up his players early in this one. The atmosphere was hostile, Jeter stared down Sasu Salin with with a wall of Susijengi behind him. Jeter cuts, drives, bucket and the foul. Sergii Glady and Oleksandr Lypovyy took the hint and made threes to give Ukraine’s offence the lift it needed. Jeter then found Gladyr outside for another three but he went down hard without contact. At the end of the first Ukraine had survived the early surge to take a 22-20 lead.