Hungary opened the EuroBasket 2005 additional qualifying tournament with a win over Czech Republic on Sunday night in Novi Sad.
Both sides last qualified for EuroBasket in 1999, but it is Hungary who are in pole position for 2005 thanks to their 84-79 win.
|Jiri Welsch couldn't rescue his side against Hungary|
However, although the Hungarians kept their noses in front, Czech Republic remained withing striking distance and made several serious runs down the stretch which nearly saw them steal the game.
Hungary led by as many as 11 points in the first half, only for Czech Republic to close to within one point (31-30) midway through the second period. But as soon as Czech Republic threatened, Hungary found a way to re-establish the lead.
The pattern repeated itself in the third quarter, but Hungary looked to have the game safe early in the fourth, when they led 70-58.
But Czech Republic refused to go down without a fight and when Jiri Welsch hit a 3-pointer with 90 seconds to go, they trailed 78-75.
The game was poised for a furious finish but when Marton Bader intercepted a Maurice Whitfield pass with 36 seconds on the clock and his side leading 81-77, the game looked to be over. But Czech Republic had a couple of big plays left in them, and when Petr Benda blocked Bader's shot, Czech star Jiri Welsch nailed a jump shot to bring his side to within 2 (81-79).
6 seconds remained on the game clock after Welsch's shot, and it proved to be too little time for Czech Republic.
They fouled Istvan Nemeth who made a pair from the line and when Whitfield missed a three and Lubos Barton the follow, they were forced to foul again and Czech Republic closed the game from the free throw line.
Bader, a 25 year center, had a strong game off the bench for Hungary as he talled 21 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Welsch led Czech Republic with 16, who will face Israel on Monday night.