Finland, Czechs Clinch Division A Status

01.08.2010

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The two big winners of the U18 European Championship Division B in Tel Aviv, Israel are Czech Republic and Finland who won their semi-finals by two points each to earn the golden ticket to Division A.

The Czechs wrote a huge comeback in the closing minutes to beat Montenegro 56-54 and climb back to Division A just one year after dropping, while Montenegro endured another disappointing effort to complete a full squad of teams in Division A with one more "almost" campaign.

The Finnish shocked the hosting team Israel 61-59 to take over the last ticket and become the first youth men team out of Finland to qualify to Division A.

Tomorrow the winners will meet in the last game of the tournament to decide who is the 2010 U18 Division B champion, but both secured their spot in the better line-up already.

Montenegro arrived to the semi-finals decisive match with a perfect record, and seemed on the sure path for success for almost 40 minutes, before the Czechs pulled the huge upset.

"It was a very hard game," admitted Jan Ulrych of the Czech bench.

"We started the game very good, played very aggressive defence and manged to stop them, but in the second period they were better.

"We manged to minimize the gap point by point with good defence and very good tactical decisions, and that what brought us this sweet win."

Tomas Vyoral scored 16, half of them during the big run, and added four rebounds and three assists for the Czechs while Jan Svejda scored 13.

Radosav Spasojevic had another big day when he led his team in four different categories - 18 points, six rebounds, three steals and one block. Nemanja Djurisic added 13.

Just like in the parallel game, held at the same time in Vilnius, Lithuania at the Division A competition, it was Montenegro who held a double-digit lead of 50-39 with 6:26 to go after controlling the game for a long stretch.

The Czechs ran 18-4 until the buzzer with Vyoral scoring eight of them.

Svejda was the one to put the eventual winners on top for the first time since the 13th minute, by converting twice from the foul line to make a 53-52 score just 77 seconds from the final buzzer.

Montenegro had a chance to win but missed a three pointer right before the buzzer that sent a group of Czechs to celebrate their return to the top competition.

"For 38 minutes we played good, but in the last two we weren't concentrated, and scored very few points. Czech played good in those minutes, they coped with the pressure very well and because of that they won," concluded Miodrag Kadija of the losing bench.

In the second game it was Israel who stood as the favorites being the home team, and with the support of the local fans planned to copycat the Czechs and jump back to Division A just a year after falling.

Yet Finland had different plans and glued themselves to Israel for the entire 40 minutes.

Villematti Kopio was the top scorer of the winners with 18 points while Osku Heinonen added 16 with three hits from long distance.

Bar Timor tried his best for Israel and set his tournament high with 23 points in addition to five assists and four rebounds but came short as no other player reached double-digits.

Israel hit only twice from the arc in 18 attempts and the final two point gap shows how much one more triplet could have helped.

Sean Labanowski gave Israel a 29-30 edge at the end of the first half, as the lead kept changing hands time and again between the two sides.

Entering the closing and deciding quarter the teams were tied at 44-44 but inside the last four minutes the local side held a 49-52 margin.

Heinonen and Kilian Cato stepped up with downtown bombs to silence the local fans, before Timor drove twice and later added a point from the foul line to make it just 58-57.

With the pressure on, Israel still managed to tie but when Timor returned to the charity stripe, this time with a tie and 23 seconds to play, he missed both attempts.

Finland had the last ball and with eight ticks to go Alex Vaenerberg went to the foul line and hit just the first, but the ball slipped out of Israel hand's and Cato had a chance to extend the lead.

He as well made just the first shot, but his second miss allowed the time to run down and Israel saw their dream come to an end.


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