Following the conclusion of the Challenge Round, the 12 teams qualified for the 2004 European Championship for U18 Men are now finalised.
The qualified teams are:
|1. Serbia and Montenegro|
|2 best 4th-placed teams|
|Israel (Group B)|
|Latvia (Group C)|
The European Championship will take place on 9th – 18th July 2004 in Zaragoza, Spain. The draw for the competition will be held in Zaragoza on 8th May, 2004, where the 12 qualified teams will be divided into 2 groups of 6 teams each where they will play round robin. After the preliminary round, the 4 top teams from each group will qualify to the quarter-finals which will be played in a direct elimination format.
Their final match was an 80:66 win over Turkey, which secured top spot in the group and relegated Turkey to second position and a 4:1 record.
The team was led by Nemanja Aleksandrov who averaged 17.4 ppg and 10.6 rpg in the 5 games.
Lithuania finished in 3rd place with the same number of points as Slovenia, but above them virtue of their 73:61 win in the game between the 2 teams.
Along with Serbia and Montenegro, Greece was the only other team in the Challenge Round to finish undefeated. The Greeks were playing on home soil, in Chakildiki, and the home court advantage served them well.
|Marco Belinelli (ITA)|
Bulgaria took 3rd place and an automatic qualification place to the Final Round, and Israel scraped through in 4th place.
Group C was played in Sisak, Croatia and was the most competitive of the 3 tournaments. It was not decided until the final day which teams would finish in the top 4 positions and perhaps the biggest shock was that the home side, and 2002 European Champions Croatia, did not qualify.
In the end it was France who grabbed top spot virtue of their final 72:55 win over Georgia in the final day of play. Italy, Georgia and Latvia finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively, all with 3-2 records.
Statistically, the group produced some of the best performers among all 18 teams. Most notably, Italian forward Marco Belinelli led all players in scoring at 26.2 ppg. Latvia’s Andris Biedrins, a familiar figure in this season’s FIBA Europe League with Skonto Riga (he was selected as an FEL All-Star) was the tournament’s top rebounder at 14.4 rpg, while Croatian guard Hrvoje Kovacevic was the best passer, 6 apg.
Georgian captain Manuchar Markoishvili was awarded MVP of the Group
|Georgian players celebrate victory over Latvia|
This is the first time that Georgia has ever qualified for a European Championship Final Round in the U18 age group.
Best 4th-Placed Teams
Slovenia, Israel and Latvia finished in 4th position in groups A, B and C respectively and their records were directly compared to determine which 2 teams would qualify to the Final Round.
Latvia finished with 8 points, taking 1 of the qualification spots. Israel and Slovenia both finished with 7 points, but Israel qualifies thanks to their superior goal average (0.95 to Slovenia’s 0.823).