by Yarone Arbel
A good start for the second half helped Russia prevail against Bulgaria in Group F of the U16 European Championship and win 64-49 at Sports Hall Topolica in Bar, Montenegro on Wednesday afternoon.
The win made all the needed difference for Russia who qualified to the quarter-finals stage from the fourth spot in group after matching their record with Bulgaria on 2-3 and hold the tie-breaker winner thanks to today's win.
Bulgaria didn't make the next round despite their huge win yesterday over Montenegro and will join Poland in the 9-12 Classification Round.
Following a very slow first half in which they combined only 20 points Russia woke up before it was too late, and improved their game in the late 20 minutes, to finally clinch the needed victory.
Stanislav Ilnitskiy had 18 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, Oleg Alferov added 12 ans Mikhail Kulagin finished with 10.
Denislav Vutev had 12 points for Bulgaria, Deyan Karamfilov finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and seven turnovers while Nikolay Grozev had 10.
"Now I can say things are better because we made it to the Quarter-Finals of the competition and we can continue with our mission to make a good result here," said the Russian coach Oleg Meleschenko.
"In the half time I just told my players to have more confidence and when they have open shots to believe in it and make them, and that's what happened.
"Tactically we tried to stop Karamfilov who is the brain of the Bulgarian team and I think we did a good job in that."
The Bulgarian point guard did add nine more points after the break, but didn't add a single assist and tied his tournament low with only two assists the entire game.
Russia struggled in the first half and reached only 20 points despite having good shots.
All together they combined only a single three pointer in no less than 18 attempts, while Bulgaria relayed on Vutev who scored all his points already in the first half.
The Bulgarian big guy scored seven already in the first quarter when Russia held a 10-12 lead after 10 minutes, but then it was time for a change.
For more than five minutes the Russians didn't score a point, but luckily for them Bulgaria collected only seven and used a three point play by Vutev to take a 24-20 lead at the break.
Less than 90 seconds inside the second half and the picture of the game seemed totally different as Russia completed a 10-0 run behind two three pointers by Alferov.
Ilnitskiy around the rim and Sizov with a three pointer extended the run and when Kulagin hit from distance it became a 22-2 run that gave the game a different direction.
Karamfilov led a late third quarter run and his three pointer right at the third quarter buzzer narrowed the gap to 47-41 but Kulagin with another three pointer and Ilnitskiy with close-range efficiency kept the game in Russia's hands.