Perfect Montenegro and Hungary in the Semis, Slovak Republic and Ukraine join the party
SKOPJE (2016 FIBA U18 European Championship Division B) - Montenegro are the only team to cruise to the Semi-Finals, whilst the other three teams had to fight off their opponents in the final minutes.
Montenegro had built an 11-point lead in the first quarter before taking the foot off the gas in a 75-53 Quarter-Final win over Poland. Montenegro took the lead 13 seconds from the start and kept it for a tournament-high 39:47 minutes, never looking back in what was their 6th straight win at the Championship.
Milos Popovic had a big double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Ognjen Carapic helped him out with 15 points and 5 assists. Marko Simonovic was also in double figures with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks for Montenegro.
Up next for the undefeated team are the Semis against Slovak Republic. Estonia tested them, crawling all the way back to a two-point deficit in the final minute, but Mario Ihring kept his calm form the free-throw line with eight seconds left. Ihring sank both his shots and set the final score in a 71-67 win.
Marek Dolezaj led Slovak Republic with 14 points and 13 rebounds to claim his fourth double-double of the tournament. Matej Drgon also had 14 points, but Group D runners-up will have to keep control of the ball against Montenegro in the Semi-Finals, as they turned it over 20 times against Estonia.
Ukraine and Hungary will face off in the other Semi-Final. Ukraine had entered the final stanza on a 55-39 advantage against Czech Republic in the Quarter-Final and even had a 13-point lead heading into the last two minutes. Frantisek Vana started a Czech comeback and David Chaloupka connected on a three-pointer to cut the lead to 65-62 with 45 seconds left.
Mykhailo Yagodin stepped up for Ukraine. Yagodin stole the ball on the biggest Czech possession of the game, and ran away to make a two-pointer for a 67-62 win. Yagodin had 11 points, 4 assists and 3 steals overall, Illia Niemtsu led the way with 21 points and 8 rebounds.
Other than Montenegro, only Hungary are on a perfect record at the Championship. Their 29-6 third quarter was enough to overturn a 13-point half-time deficit into a 10-point advantage with 10 minutes to play. Much like Slovak Republic and Ukraine, Hungary also allowed Belgium to make it a one possession game in the final minute.
Csaba Kucsora had the answer and scored the game winning basket to make it 68-63. Kucsora continued his strong performance at the tournament, scoring 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field.