Overtime madness: Estonia end Italy's perfect run
PERM (Russia) - Estonia took a gigantic leap towards the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 with a dramatic overtime win over Italy. They were up 22 in the second half, saw the lead evaporate, but won in 45 minutes. It finished 105-101 with Henri Drell finishing the game as a hero for Estonia.
Italy had a perfect 4-0 record coming into the game, even with a secured place at the summit as one of the four hosts. But fatigue kicked in for Meo Sacchetti's team, as they played a close one against North Macedonia less than 24 hours earlier.
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Turning point: Italy somehow crawled back from 22 down in the second half, and Marco Spissu's righty layup sent the game to overtime. Teams exchanged blows up until the final minute, when Henri Drell's dunk put Estonia up by three. Italy made it a one-point game with 4.4 to play, but Drell had no intention of letting the clock run out - he took and made one last three-pointer to set the final score with smiles, laughs and question marks from the entire Estonian bench.
Game hero: Drell finished the game strong with five of his 12 points in the final minute, but it was Maik-Kalev Kotsar who shined the brightest for coach Jukka Toijala. Kotsar, 24-year-old big guy, had 32 points on 15-of-22 shooting from the field, being the main target to Sten Sokk's 14 assists.
Stats don't lie: Estonia dominated the game on the inside, going +22 in paint points and +18 in second chance points, thanks to their 15 offensive rebounds in this one. Just for comparison, Italy had 15 defensive rebounds, meaning the rebounding battle under the Italian rim ended in a tie.
Bottom line: Italy focused on giving minutes to younger guys, Matteo Spagnolo played 21 of them with 9 points, so Sacchetti can find positives in this defeat. Estonia climb to 2-2, two wins clear from North Macedonia. They are not officially in, but this win could be the one that sends them through after six games in Group B.