by Dan Casey
|With fellow guard Radovan Kouril struggling, Jiri Soula stepped up big for the Czechs, dropping 17 points on Russia|
The Czech Republic booked their Quarter-Final place in the U16 European Championship Men with a hard-fought win over Russia, 80-75.
In a tight contest throughout, the Czech team were able to hold their opponents to 38% shooting and big plays down the stretch from Radovan Kouril, Martin Peterka and Prokop Slanina secured the Czech team's progress in the tournament.
Coach Peter Treml was proud of the contributions from his whole team after the game: "This was exactly what we were missing yesterday against Serbia. We had an active team defense today and it helped us to victory. The bench players brought new energy to the court, they exceeded expectations, especially David Zumer."
Both teams struggled to score at the beginning. Vasily Martynov connected with two three-pointers but David Zumer found a cutting Jiri Soula for a lay-up, and then Peterka span in the line and pulled up for a jump-shot to make the score 15-11 to the Czech Republic.
Soula forced a turnover on Russia's first possession of the second quarter and Peterka connected again to extend the lead to six. When Zumer found Soula again, this time for a three-pointer, the lead was up to eight.
But Russia came back strongly behind forward Pavel Sizov, who hit 11 consecutive points for his team including a three-pointer and then a buzzer-beater at half-time to put his side ahead, 42-40.
But Sizov's hot hand couldn't continue after the break and the Czech defense shut his team-mates down. Kouril hit a jump-shot with 0:03 remaining in the period to put the Czechs five points clear, 61-56.
In this rollercoaster ride, Russia came back with the first four points of the final period but David Subert's three-pointer put the Czechs clear again.
Vasily Martynov, Viacheslav Fedorchenko and Sizov then scored as the Russian team forced turnovers to tie the game at 70-70.
As the crowd grew nervous, Kouril stayed calm and knocked down a jump-shot followed by a three-pointer. With the lead at 5, Slanina came across the lane to block Fedorchenko's lay-up to rapturous cheers.
Soula helped clinch the game from the free-throw line as the Czech defense restricted Russian attempts in the closing moments.
Peterka's double-double (26 points, 17 rebounds) was instrumental to the Czech team's success, but he was well supported by Soula (17 points), Slanina (13 points) and Kouril (11 points, 8 assists).
Russia were led by Sizov's 25 points and 8 rebounds, Vasily Martynov adding 19 points and 3 steals.
The Russians will need to beat Greece tomorrow to have any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.