Dragos Pana’s clutch three-point shooting in the fourth quarter helped Romania to a 67-54 win over Estonia in the UMCOR U18 European Championship Division B gold medal game.
As tournament MVP Vlad Moldoveanu snatched the final rebound of the game with two seconds remaining and threw the ball in the air, a joyous celebration broke out at Transylvania Arena in Sibiu as the home country lifted the gold medal in front of a capacity crowd of roughly 2,000 jubilant spectators.
“This has been an unbelievable experience, the best basketball experience of my life,” said Moldoveanu.
|Vlad Moldoveanu of Romania celebrates his MVP selection.|
“The crowd was great. They were our sixth man and they really gave us a lift.”
“We want to dedicate this gold medal to Tony Alexe.”
Alexe was captain of the Romanian national team until he was tragically killed in a car accident in 2005.
Pana, who entered play averaging just five ppg, delivered his best performance for last to lift his side in the gold medal game.
He opened the fourth quarter by hitting a three pointer to spark a 9-2 run to open up a 58-47 lead for Romania.
Estonia got to within seven points, 58-51, midway through the fourth, but Pana once again stepped up by hitting a pair of three-pointers to give his side a 64-51 lead with 3:31 remaining in the game.
From then on, Romania was in celebration mode and their stingy defense wouldn’t allow Estonia to make a final push.
Pana finished with 20 points, Moldoveanu tallied 15 and Titus Nicoara added 13 points and 15 rebounds.
“We were able to find him (Pana) and he made the open shots,” said Moldoveanu.
“He was great tonight.”
Romania’s defense was also a key to their victory as Estonia shot 37 percent from the field for the game.
After playing even with Romania in the first 14 minutes of the game, Estonia went ice cold in the second quarter and finished the final six minutes before the half with just one field goal and three points.
Romania wasn’t setting the world on fire either with their offense, but they were able to turn a 23-21 lead into a 32-24 advantage at halftime.
Estonia would not go away in the third quarter as Kaarel Koolman scored six points over the final four minutes of the quarter to bring his country to within four points, 49-45, going into the fourth.
Just as they did at the end of the first half, Romania’s defense again stepped up, this time holding Estonia to nine points in the pivotal final quarter, while Pana provided the clutch shooting to secure the gold medal.
As for winning the MVP, Moldoveanu said: “I can’t describe it in words. We have so many great players on this team so when my name was called I was surprised. I have to thank my teammates for this.”
Vlad Moldoveanu (ROM)
Daniel Clark (ENG)
Sten Sokk (EST)
Tiago Pinto (POR )
Titus Nicoara (ROM)
Vlad Moldoveanu (ROM)