|20 August 2012|
|Nikola Ivanovic, celebrating here Saturday's win with his Montenegro teammates, admits he got lucky with his buzzer-beater, but the fact he was there to take that shot at the age of 18 is no fluke |
It's an understatement to suggest that Nikola Ivanovic's buzzer-beating three-ball at Serbia on Saturday night sent shockwaves through the Balkans.
The shot has been the talk of Podgorica and Belgrade, and European hoops overall.
Montenegro won the game, 73-71, to improve to 2-0 in EuroBasket Qualification Round Group A.
Both of their victories have come against teams deemed to be their biggest opponents, and Montenegro have won twice without star center Nikola Pekovic.
"To win against Serbia," Ivanovic said, "we'll remember it for the rest of our lives.
"We needed some luck for the ball to go in.
"You don't practice shots like these but they are shots that are destined to go in."
Ivanovic is just 18 years of age so he has a bright future.
The 1.90m point guard has already been a standout for the country at youth level, playing at the U16 European Championship in 2009 and 2010, and the U18 and U20 European Championship last summer.
Aged only 17 at the time, he was actually the youngest player in that competition.
Still young, Ivanovic was so tantalizing that Montenegro couldn't keep him out of the senior team.
Not only did he hit the shot to beat mighty Serbia in their own back yard, but he finished with 10 points and two steals in just 14 minutes.
The future of Montenegro is bright because Suad Sehovic, Montenegro's shooting guard, is just 25 years of age.
After his 17 points and 10 reboundson Saturday, he is averaging 14.5 points and 10.5 boards.
He is a red-hot 50 percent (eight of 16) from three-point range.
"I congratulate my teammates on the extraordinary battle that eventually paid off," he said.
Montenegro won despite trailing by 13 with 4:55 to go.
"At one point we had a drop in the game and it was during the last quarter, when Serbia opened a 13-point advantage, and up to then we had been equal and on several occasions had the advantage."
Sehovic says Montenegro had improved on their performance against Israel.
"If in the game against Israel there were many things not working, then the things in this game (against Serbia) were much better, although there are also still elements that we need to fix.
"In this game, we hit some threes that we did not make against Israel, and in the last five minutes we played smart and slowly cut into their lead.
"In the end, we had the incredible luck and Ivanovic three-pointer that gave us the historic victory."
Montenegro must keep their feet on the ground because on Tuesday, the team plays in Tallinn against unbeaten Estonia.