|28 July 2014|
EUROBASKET 2015 2nd QR
|Simone Pianigiani: "We now need to use the time that remains to polish out details without losing the identity we have created so far."|
Italy claimed three victories in as many games over the weekend to win an international warm-up tournament in Skopje ahead of hosts F.Y.R. of Macedonia, Montenegro and Poland.
All four teams have entered the final two weeks of their preparations for the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualication Round, which tips off on 10 August.
"This has been a particularly positive tournament for us," Italy head coach Simone Pianigiani commented after the conclusion of the three-day meeting on Sunday night.
"We first won two tough games away from our home court, against Montenegro and F.Y.R. of Macedonia and we wrapped up with the win in the game against Poland, which proved to us that unless we are focused and playing well for the entire 40 minutes, we are going to suffer.
"We now need to use the time that remains [until the start of the 2nd Qualification Round] to polish out details without losing the identity we have created so far," Pianigiani added.
The Azzuri have now won eight of their nine friendly games since the start of their preparations, but for them to be in this position Pietro Aradori had to make sure they would snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on Friday.
Montenegro led Italy by 12 points with less than eight minutes remaining in the opening game of the tournament in Skopje but Aradori was not going to be denied on a night he finished with 34 points, a new international career-high.
In tandem with Luigi Datome, who finished with 19 points, Aradori masterminded a late comeback and Italy edged out Montenegro 86-84, despite a 17-point effort by Taylor Rochestie.
In the other game on Day 1, tournament hosts F.Y.R. of Macedonia secured a 73-63 win over Poland behind 21 points from Bojan Trajkovski, who went 4-for-7 from three-point range.
Aaron Cel had 10 points in a losing effort for Poland, who arrived in Skopje without the injured Mateusz Ponitka and without either one of David Logan or Thomas Kelati.
On Saturday, Italy decided it was best to avoid the drama of the premiere and jumped to a 19-9 lead over F.Y.R. of Macedonia in the first quarter.
The Azzurri maintained the gap at double-digit levels until late in the fourth quarter and, despite a push by the hosts in the dying minutes, Italy clinched a rather stress-free 63-56 win.
Aradori and Datome poured in 17 points apiece, the latter also grabbing seven rebounds, to pace the winners.
Aleksandar Kostoski came off the bench for the hosts and finished with a team-high 11 points in defeat, while Damjan Stojanovski and Richard Hendrix collected 10 points each.
Montenegro meanwhile bounced back swiftly from their opening day defeat and cruised to a 92-71 victory over Poland, thanks to a dominant performance in the two middle quarters of the clash.
Rochestie once again paced Montenegro with 18 points and six assists and Vladimir Dragicevic added 12 points, while Adam Waczynski had 13 points and five boards for Poland.
|Alessandro Gentile continues to grow as a leader for Italy|
On Sunday, Italy out-scored Poland 26-14 in the second quarter to gain a firm grip on proceedings and held on the rest of the way, not without some difficulty, to register their third win, 73-65.
Alessandro Gentile went 7-for-10 from the floor and led all scorers with 16 points and Datome added 14 points for Italy.
For Poland, Waczynski collected 15 points and Cel had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in losing efforts.
Pianigiani was particularly happy that the young Gentile assumed a protagonist role on Sunday.
"The most positive note, when we went through difficult moments in the third quarter, were the baskets by Alessandro Gentile, who continues with his growth process within this group of players," the Italian coach commented.
In the game that concluded action in Skopje, F.Y.R of Macedonia out-defended Montenegro 65-58 and finished in second place in the tournament.
Hendrix paced the hosts with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds and Trajkovski contributed 10 points and five boards.
For Montenegro, Suad Sehovic and Rochestie picked up 10 points apiece in defeat.
Italy commence their EuroBasket 2015 qualifying campaign on 13 August, when they travel to Russia in their Group G debut.
The other three teams that took part in the friendly tournament in Skopje enter the 2nd Qualification Round battle on 10 August.
Montenegro face Israel on the road in their opening game in Group B, Poland play host to Germany in the game that lifts the curtain on Group C action, while F.Y.R. of Macedonia entertain Belgium in Skopje in the premiere of Group D.