|Martin Paasoja was instrumental in Estonia's win over the Czechs, scoring 17 points and coralling 6 rebounds|
Estonia have kept alive their hopes of advancing to the Second Round of the Sportland U20 European Championship in Tallinn with a 75-58 victory over the Czech Republic on Friday.
Should the tournament hosts defeat Italy on Saturday and France win against the Czechs, Estonia will advance at the expense of the Azzurri.
Estonia will qualify regardless of the result in the game between France and the Czech Republic in case they beat Italy by seven points or more.
Italy will break the tournament hosts' hearts if they prevail, but Estonia must have convinced them on Friday that this will not be an easy mission.
Playing in front of their home crowd in Saku arena, the hosts forced the Czech Republic to take bad shots and kept them to just 24% from the floor throughout the first two quarters, to claim a 32-24 advantage at the interval.
Were it not for Czech power forward Dalibor Fait, who scored his 19th point on five-for-seven from three-point range midway through the third period (while the rest of his team-mates had made 1 of their 13 triples), Estonia would have pulled away much earlier.
As it happened, the Czechs attempted a last fight-back before Martin Jurtom with a lay-up shortly after the start of the final stanza initiated an 11-0 Estonian run to make it 69-54 with three minutes left on the clock and put the game beyond the reach of their guests for good.
Oliver Metsalu paced the winners with 21 points and eight rebounds, Martin Paasoja had 17 points and six boards while Jurtom chipped in with 11 points.
Fait stopped at 19 points and Martin Kríz collected a double-double of 10 points and 11 boards for the Czechs.