U20 MEN DIVISION B
|Bulgaria celebrated promotion to Division A of the U18 European Championship last summer and they hope to replicate this feat at U20 level in July |
Bulgaria, this summer's U20 European Championship Division B hosts, had been a pretty regular feature in the age group's top flight until 2008.
They finished penultimate in that year's Division A championship in Latvia and have not managed to earn promotion since then.
The Balkan side though have every reason to believe this could change soon.
Home-court advantage will not even be their most important asset when they set out on 12 July in the capital of the country, Sofia, to achieve their goal.
Instead, coach Lyubomir Minchev can pin his hopes on something much more substantial than fan support.
Minchev was the coach of the U18 team that cruised undefeated to the European Championship Division B title in 2011.
The best players on that team are now on the U20 side and have made clear already from the start of preparations that they intend to light the path to promotion for their teammates, just like they did last year.
Pavlin Ivanov, the U18 Division B MVP and Bulgaria's top scorer last year, top rebounder Dimitar Dimitrov, Tencho Tenchev and Aleks Simeonov do not seem fazed by the challenge of having to replicate the feat as 19-year-olds at U20 level.
They were Bulgaria's best players in the second of two warm-up games the U20 Division B hosts played against F.Y.R. of Macedonia at home, in Pravec.
Bulgaria had won the first friendly on Tuesday by 15 points, but when the trio of Ivanov, Dimitrov and Tenchev joined the team for the second on Wednesday, they helped the hosts to a 73-38 annihilation of the fellow Balkan side.
The hosts dominated proceedings from the very start, leading already 36-7 at the first buzzer and 44-15 at halftime.
Dimitrov led all scorers with 15 points, Ivanov and Tenchev had 13 apiece while another 19-year-old, Georgi Boyanov, posted a double of 14 points and 11 boards.
Goran Markovski and Nikola Gajdadjiev scored nine points each for F.Y.R of Macedonia in a losing effort.
Bulgaria, who are in U20 European Championship Division Group A, will face Israel in their opening game on 12 July.
On the same day, F.Y.R. of Macedonia will go up against Belgium in group B.