In one of the best games thus far in the UMCOR U18 European Championship Men Division B, host nation Romania defeated Sweden 67-64 to clinch a spot in the semi-final round and send Sweden to the classification stage.
Titus Nicoara scored 19 points and made two crucial go-ahead field goals down the stretch and Vlad Moldoveanu iced the game with his free throw shooting in the final minute.
In a close and intense contest throughout, things turned for Sweden when center Brice Massamba, who scored a team-high 16 points, picked up his fifth personal and fouled out at the 8:41 mark in the fourth quarter.
|Vlad Moldoveanu led Romania with 20 points.|
Sweden was leading by five at the time Massamba fouled out. Without their big man on the court, Romania chipped away at the deficit and took their first lead (56-54) in the fourth quarter when Nicoara hit a jumper with 4:37 to go.
Sweden would not go quietly however and a jumper from Andreas Karlsson put the Nordic giants back in front 62-60 with just under two minutes left in the game.
Free throws from Romania’s Mihai Petcu tied the game and Nicoara put his team ahead 62-60 with 1:30 remaining by hitting another jumper.
Johan Andreasen made one of two free throws with 58 seconds left to get Sweden within one.
Both teams failed to score on their next possessions.
Sweden’s Kim Palmqvist was then called for an unsportsmanlike foul with 12.6 seconds remaining.
Moldoveanu hit the ensuing two free throws and, with Romania still in possession of the ball, he went back to the line and made one of two to put Romania up 65-61.
Sweden’s Christian Koutras made a three pointer from the corner with two men closely defending him to cut the Romanian lead to one, 65-64, with six seconds remaining and Moldoveanu was sent back to line after being fouled immediately upon receiving the ensuing inbound pass.
The 210-cm big man calmly made both attempts and when Koutras’ desperation half court shot fell short, Romanian players and the capacity crowd in attendance celebrated their victory.
“We weren’t expecting Sweden to play this well,” confessed Moldoveanu, who finished with 20 points.
“They have some great athletes. This game much harder than we thought.”
In the final quarter-final round game, Belgium defeated Estonia 68-63.
Estonia had already assured themselves qualification to the semi-final round following their win last night and the results from earlier today.
Belgium finished the quarter-final stage with a 1-2 record and will play in the classification round.