|Oops, he did it again! Nikola Ivanovic was white hot with 29 points and 9 assists in the routing of Poland|
by Yarone Arbel
The hosting team of the U16 European Championship from Montenegro kept their record perfect with a 95-69 victory over Poland in their Group F opener at Sports Hall Topolica in Bar, Montenegro on Monday night.
Montenegro took a 3-0 record in the group, tied with Spain above all the other teams, while Poland is down to 0-3 at the bottom side yet still with a chance to qualify.
The result secured the spot of both Montenegro and Spain in the quarter-finals already now as both teams can't drop below the fourth spot and still hold a perfect record.
Tomorrow Montenegro will take on Bulgaria while Poland will fight with Russia as one of the teams will get a debut win in the Qualifying Round and the other will be in trouble.
A very offensive oriented first half combined 100 points by both sides already after 20 minutes, but the locals were on top 57-43.
Those 20 minutes seemed like a one-on-one battle between the local Nikola Ivanovic and Poland's Daniel Szymkiewicz as both players showed all their pleasuring tools by attacking the rim and distributing passes or finishing with style.
Ivanovic continued his great momentum and wrote already at half time 22 points and eight assists including three hits from the perimeter, while Szymkiewicz had "only" 11 with four assists and three steals.
At the finish line Ivanovic finished with 29 points, nine assists and six steals and was joined by four other players in double-digit as Milija Mikovic had 16 Vasilije Vusovic and Milos Pajovic wrote 13 each and Dusan Perovic collected 10.
Szymkiewicz eventually finished with only 13 as well as Kacper Borowski while Damian Jeszke and Rafal Stefanik scored 12 each and Jan Grzelinski added 10.
"We didn't shoot the ball well and our 9.1% from the three point line shows it," said Janusz Kociolek of the Polish bench.
"Montenegro is a very good team, but I don't think we should lose in such a great gap to them.
"In the preparations things were different, and we were shooting much better. The players will need to listen to our instructions to get back on track."
The Polish guard was on fire in the first quarter and led his team to a 16-21 lead after eight minutes, but then Ivanovic found his rhythm and hit back.
In the last 12 minutes of the first half he scored 18 points and led his team on a 14-2 run to take over the game and in less than three minutes.
Vusovic hit a three pointer with the buzzer, thanks to a great pass by Ivanovic and sealed the biggest gap in the half on 14.
It took Montenegro a bit more than five minutes in the second half to increase the gap to 20 and leave Poland far-far behind while Szymkiewicz was limited and stopped producing points and assists as before.
The home fans continued to push their young heroes to extend the gap, that eventually reached a peak of 26, before Ivanovic earned standing obviations.