by Dan Casey
|Dogukan Sanli and Turkey anjoyed a good start to the tournament as the held off a resilient opponent|
Turkey's size and strength proved too much despite a great Bulgarian effort as Turkey won the opening game in Group D of the U16 European Championship Men in Hradec Kralove.
Turkey were led by a double-double from James Birsen (17pts, 11 rebounds) and five steals from Dogukan Sanli.
For Bulgaria, a tireless shift from captain Aleksandar Vezenkov went unrewarded, as he played all 40 minutes and ended with 29pts and 7 rebounds. Vassil Stoimenov contributed 17pts and 7 rebounds also.
Turkey assistant coach Omer Ugurata told FIBA Europe after the game: "The first game's always difficult at this age group, but we're happy, it's a good start."
Turkey led from start-to-finish and the Bulgarians were unable to keep the Turkish players off the boards. Turkey immediately showed their intent at the beginning of the game, scoring the first points and then forcing a turnover off Bulgaria's first possession.
Angel Dinkov's hard drive and finish plus free throw brought the game back to 13-14, but Turkey were then able to go on a 9-0 run and the Turkey lead never dropped below 6pts after then.
Turkey's Okben Ulubay hit the game's first 3-pointer as the advantage opened up to 41-25, but Vezenkov scored at the half-time buzzer to cut the lead to 13.
Bulgaria came out in the second half with extra energy and scored the first six points, with their zone defence troubling the Turkish offence. But Cedi Osman was able to hit a 3-pointer and then get a nice assist on the next possession to push the lead back to 63-50.
Bulgaria pushed again in the final quarter and Stoimenov's and-1 layup brought them to 60-67, but the Turkish inside passing game was too efficient in the final quarter.
Looking ahead to tomorrow's clash with defending champions Croatia, assistant coach Ugurata said "It will be a good test. We will try to do better, especially on defence - today our defence was quite good, but we can be better"