Follow FIBA on Facebook
Sweetest defeat ever: Estonia lose to North Macedonia, still advance to FIBA EuroBasket 2022
PERM (Russia) - Estonia had a nine-point advantage from the first matchup with North Macedonia, and turned the closing minutes in Perm into protecting that aggregate lead. Mission accomplished, North Macedonia won the game 86-84, but it was Estonia who took third place in Group B with a head-to-head tie-breaker in their 2-4 deadlock.
Estonia are making their comeback to FIBA EuroBasket Final Round for the first time since 2015. That was also the year when North Macedonia last made it to the main event.
Turning point: Estonia were in front for most of the game, and even after North Macedonia made their comeback run, they still managed to stay in front because of a pair of layups by Sten Sokk and Maik-Kalev Kotsar. They made sure the difference was three points, and once Estonia fouled Jacob Wiley in the final minutes, he turned it into a one-point game, which was perfect for coach Jukka Toijala, because it stopped North Macedonia from forcing overtime and getting five more minutes to chase that nine-point gap.
Estonia missed their free throws on purpose to keep the difference at +1 with 10 seconds to play, Nenad Dimitrijevikj tried to draw a foul on North Macedonia's last possession, but instead made the off balance three-pointer to win the game.
Game hero: Nenad Dimitrijevikj was sensational once again for North Macedonia, finishing with 23 points and 5 assists. Unfortunately, it was not enough to send his squad to the Final Round.
Stats don't lie: Estonia had a 33-12 advantage in bench points. Having a deep squad certainly helped protect that aggregate lead.
Bottom line: Italy, Russia and Estonia, those are the three teams advancing to the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 from this group. North Macedonia can still be proud of their window in Perm, as wins over Italy and Estonia showed they are capable of competing against any opponent.