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Historic win for hosts Kosovo rounds out Day 1
PRISHTINA (U18 European Championship Division C) – Hosting their first-ever European youth championship, Kosovo rode off the fervent home crowd to record an 89-56 opening day win over San Marino.
The victory brought to a close Day 1 action, which had seen big wins for Monaco and Cyprus, Ireland also joining the winning circle, following the day’s closest encounter.
After starting the game on an Erhan Sholla steal, leading to a three-pointer, Kosovo then gave up the next 9 points, momentarily silencing the home fans. However, they soon settled into their work, and when Rron Ukaj dunked to make it 14-12, Kosovo had a lead that they would not relinquish for the remainder of the night.
Struggling to make anything go from outside, shooting a meagre 3-of-21 from downtown, Kosovo instead turned to their superiority down low, outscoring San Marino 64-26 in the paint, whilst also tidying up on the boards with 22 offensive rebounds, compared to San Marino’s 6.
Ireland and Malta produced the closest game of the day, as Malta controlled the early goings to run ahead 21-17 at the end of 10 minutes. However, when Nathan Moore started to feel it in the second quarter, hitting three three-pointers, Ireland were able to enter the locker rooms, their noses slightly in front.
Following a tight third frame, Malta were right in the game when Nathan Xuereb made it a five-point difference, hitting a three-pointer with 3:17 to play. It forced an Irish time-out, from which they returned to the court with rejuvenated defense, not allowing Malta to score again as they eased out to victory, 84-69.
In the day's other two games Cyprus made light work of Gibraltar, 17 points and 14 rebounds from Georgios Tretiakov the standout numbers in an 85-52 victory; while Monaco opened the tournament with a 79-46 win over Armenia, their main output coming from Robin Clair, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds.