|Tornike Shengelia and Zaza Pachulia were instrumental in seeing Georgia win a four-team tournament which concluded on Monday|
An injury-struck Georgia received a morale boost six days before the start of the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round, by winning three games in a row in a friendly four-nation tournament they hosted in Tbilisi.
For Georgia, the most encouraging aspect was that they were victorious despite significant absences, as Manuchar Markoishvili, Giorgi Shermadini and Duda Sanadze all watched from the stands and Viktor Sanikidze had limited participation.
"Viktor [Sanikidze] was in pain and we protected him, but hopefully he will play on Sunday against the Czech Republic," said Georgia assistant coach David Ustiashvili.
"Manu [Markoishvili] should be able to help us in the official games.
"Sanadze hurt his ankle in the game against Great Britain but right now his situation does not appear to be very serious.
"As for Shermadini, he has just arrived from Greece and trained under the supervision of our physicians.
"We don't expect that Georgi will be able to help us out during the first round of the qualification games."
In this context, star center Zaza Pachulia and power forward Tornike Shengelia assumed a bigger load offensively and lifted Georgia in the Monday game against Belarus, which decided the tournament winner.
Belarus was excellent on defence in the first half and led 39-36 at half-time, but Shengelia went six-for-seven from two-point range en route to his game-high 21 points and Pachulia collected a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds to power the hosts to a much improved second-half display and a 76-66 win.
"We cannot be entirely content, no matter how well we played well in the second half," Shengelia commented.
"Belarus were good and fought until the end. This was a useful competition because our opponents here are of similar level to our opposition in the qualifiers.
"We had a number of shortcomings that we need to still iron out."
Despite their loss, Belarus took several positives out of the clash, such as the fact that they out-rebounded a big-sized team like Georgia, 40-to-34.
"This is the fourth time I come to Georgia and it is always a pleasure to play against this robust team," commented veteran Belarus guard Aliaksandr Kudrautsau.
"Our team collected experience in this tournament which will be useful in the qualifying games.
"[In Monday's game] we started well, but in the second half we were just not strong enough physically to stop Georgia."
|Great Britain head coach Joe Prunty could only look on as his team squandered a 19-point half-time lead to lose to Belarus 77-68|
Great Britain enjoyed a 92-43 rout of Moldova in the other Monday game and finished in third place in the tournament as they had previously lost to both Georgia and Belarus.
On the opening day of the event in Tbilisi, Aliaksandr Pustahvar and Kudrautsau scored 12 points apiece to lead Belarus to a 77-68 win over the British, for whom captain Daniel Clark had 13 points in a losing effort.
No one could have possibly predicted the final outcome at half-time, when Great Britain where leading by an impressive 40-21.
"It was a tale of two halves. We cannot afford to play that way. We must play for 40 minutes, on both ends of the floor, and it starts with defence," Great Britain head coach Joe Prunty commented afterwards.
Prunty was much happier with his team on Sunday, despite the fact Great Britain fell 73-60 to Georgia, as Pachulia came up with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds and erased Clark's 20 point, 7-rebound effort.
"I am proud of the way we played," Prunty said.
"It was a hard-fought and physical game by both teams. I like the improvement I saw in our defence. We must build on that heading into the qualifiers."
All three teams have now concluded their warm-up games schedule and are ready to enter the EuroBasket qualification battle.
On Sunday, Georgia play host to the Czech Republic in the Group E opener, Belarus entertain Denmark in Group D action while Great Britain travel to Iceland for the premiere of Group A.