Prostran, Croatia Defy Injury, Hold Off Slovenia

27.07.2009

Croatia overcame an injury to Tony Prostran to beat Slovenia 90-84 in Group E of the Qualifying Round at the U18 European Championship Men 2009, in Hagondange, France.

Prostran turned his left ankle in the game's third minute as an opposing player fell into him after the point guard had taken a shot.

The point guard went to the bench and was treated before trying to return in the second quarter but without much success.

The medical staff worked on him during half time and he returned to the line-up in the third quarter, playing more as a facilitator and decoy but to great effect as Croatia held off Slovenia's rally.

"My ankle is very painful right now," Prostran said afterwards. "I have taken a tablet for the pain so we will have to see how I react to it. I don't know if I will play tomorrow.

"My team-mates did a very good job in my absence. Even without me playing they stayed close. I guess it helped when I came back."

Croatia's team manager Vladimirk Vanjak praised the team's leader for his courageous display.

"Toni is a tough player and he wasn't going to sit out," said Vanjak. "He should be better in a couple of days. I think he will play against France. We will see.

"He wasn't his usual self, you could see he had trouble but he is a smart player and figured out that Slovenia would double-team him so he became more of a playmaker and then at the end of the game he made important free-throws."

Prostran scored all 11 of his points from the free-throw line as Slovenia, who were in the penalty early in the final quarter, fouled him time and again to stop the clock. He hit 11 of 12 attempts.

Following the Croatian guard's injury, his team-mates were shaken and Slovenia used an 18-4 run to take a 30-15 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks in large part to Edo Muric and Jakob Cebasek who combined for 33 first-half points.

But Dragan Sekelja, Dino Jakolis and Matteo Juricic took over the scoring load in Prostran's absence and, by outscoring Slovenia 27-15 in the second quarter, they cut the deficit to three, 45-42, at the break.

Prostran returned to the line-up to start the second half and they tied the game at 46 and then took a 52-46 lead when Jakolis and Juricic hit consecutive three-pointers.

Slovenia came back behind Tine Horvat and trailed just by four, 66-62, heading into the final frame.

Croatia  pushed the advantage to 77-66 on Prostran's first two points of the game.

Slovenia got back within three several times but were in the penalty and decided to employ the ‘Hack-a Prostran' method.

This was to little effect as he missed just one of his 12 attempts from the free-throw line to hold off a hot-shooting finish by the Slovenians.

Sekelja and Jakolis had 20 points each while Juricic chipped in with 18. Prostran had 11 points and six assists.

Muric and Cebasek had 22 each for Slovenia.


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