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Croatia, Israel and Estonia still perfect, Group A crowded at the top
TALLINN (FIBA U18 European Championship 2017, Division B) - And then there were three - Croatia, Israel and Estonia are the only unbeaten teams left in the competition.
All of them enjoyed comfortable wins in their fourth outings at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017, Division B. Croatia's win was perhaps the most impressive, as they handed the previously unbeaten Iceland a 75-45 defensive lesson. Iceland failed to score in double digits in first two quarters, by the time they caught a bit of an offensive rhythm, Croatia were already up 36-17.
The lead grew to 37 for the red-and-white, led by Luka Samanic's 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and 5 rebounds - in less than 15 minutes on the floor. Toni Nakic was the only other Croatian player in double figures with 12 points. Sigvaldi Eggertsson scored 13 points for Iceland, who shot a dismal 15-of-60 from the field.
Croatia are alone at the top of the group on a 4-0 record with just one more game left in the Group Phase. They will face Belarus, who were defeated by Hungary, 91-85, on Tuesday. It was a game of ups-and-downs, suggested by the score of the first two quarters - Belarus stormed to a 30-21 lead after Q1, only to lose the second 10 minutes by 27-6. Adam Somogy had 19 points and 9 assists, hitting 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Hungary cannot advance to the next round, but Bulgaria kept their hope alive with an 83-62 triumph against Georgia. Ivaylo Tonev had 21 points and 8 rebounds, Bulgaria now need a win over Iceland on the final day to have a shot of making it through to the Quarter-Finals.
The hosts have secured first place in Group D. Estonia reached the century mark, beating Ireland 101-60 on Mart Rosenthal's 24 points, 6 steals, and 5 rebounds, giving Estonia a perfect 4-0 record. Ireland are winless and cannot advance, but the rest of the group is tied at 2-2. Denmark's second win was Belgium's second loss, 64-59, and Morten Bulow can take a bow after putting up 25 points and 10 rebounds on the scoreboard. The same goes for Damjan Krstevski, his 22-point, 14-rebound, 4-assist, 4-steal performance leading MKD to an 84-61 win over Switzerland.
The final day in Group D will see Estonia take on MKD, while Denmark will play Ireland, and Belgium face off with Switzerland.
In Group C, Israel cruised to an 89-55 win over Romania. Ofek Malka scored 16 points in just 18 minutes on the court, Tomer Porat finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds for the winners, who are through to the Quarter-Finals. Poland have it all in their hands ahead of the last day of the Group Phase. A 73-64 win over Portugal saw them rise to 3-1, and Portugal dropped to 2-2 in the battle for second place. Adrian Bogucki had team-highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds for Poland.
Austria got their first win of the tournament, 82-71 against Azerbaijan. Luka Brajkovic dominated on the inside with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and Mert Ilhan's monster game of 31 points, 7 steals, 5 assists, 4 rebounds goes to waste for Azerbaijan, who are still winless.
Group A is too close to call ahead of the last day. The Netherlands, Great Britain and Sweden are all tied at 3-1, Czech Republic standing right behind them at 2-2. Great Britain enjoyed a 35-point, 7-rebound, 5-steal performance by Jaydon Kayne Henry McCalla to defeat Luxembourg 91-82. The Netherlands scored 32 points in the final stanza en route to an 88-80 win over Sweden, who have suffered their first defeat of the competition, and Czech Republic were in cruise control, beating Albania 88-52.