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England, Slovenia Celebrate Promotion

07.08.2011
Roundup
12. Kingsley Okoroh (England)
Kingsley Okoroh had a solid double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds together with 7 blocks in England's overtime triumph

Slovenia hammered Bosnia and Herzegovina, while England needed overtime to finally triumph over Israel.

Next year, England will compete at the top level in U16 for the first time since 1995. Having fallen short in Semi-Finals in 2007 and 2009, coach Simon Fisher was a relieved man: "I've been in this situation twice before. This time, we have been beaten a quality team in Israel. It's a fantastic job by my players, unbelievable moments for all of us. It's historic for English basketball, it's the first time in our history we'll have a place in the elite Division A."

Slovenia will return to Division A next year after a four-year absence. Coach Milos Sporar has also seen his team miss out at the final stage recently, with last year's Semi-Final loss still fresh in the mind: "We tried a couple of times and now finally we make it. I'm so proud of my team, extremely happy. All of my players gave 150%. And we will continue to fight, to stay focused and try and take the gold medal too."

Playing in the second Semi-Final of the day, Slovenia romped to a 38-26 half-time lead on the strength of a 10-0 second-quarter run, capped by Nejc Zupan's free-throw.

Bosnia and Herzegovina scored the first nine points of the second half, with Adi Zahiragic's lay-up cutting the Slovenian lead to three points.

But Slovenia finished the third period dominantly with a 19-4 run, and Zupan's lay-up extended the lead to 59-41 approaching the fourth quarter. The Slovenian defense held Bosnia and Herzegovina to 12 points in the final period to secure the victory.

Damir Zeljkovic, head coach for Bosnia and Herzegovina, admitted the better team had won: "They deserved to win. They hit unbelievable three-pointers, they had control of the game all the time. My players couldn't respond. I congratulate the Slovenian team on their promotion."

Zahiragic led Bosnia and Herzegovina with 16 points but no other player could contribute double-digits in scoring as the Slovenian defense restricted Bosnia and Herzegovina to 34% shooting.

Slovenia hit 13 three-pointers during the game, with Zupan a perfect 3-3 on his way to 18 points. Aleksej Nikolic added 17 points, and Matic Rebec contributed 13 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.

The earlier semi-final was a much more thrilling affair, as Idan Zalmanson's lay-up with 14 seconds remaining tied the game at 78-78 to force overtime.

England scored the first 7 points of the overtime period behind Morayoninuoluwa Soluade's drive, Samuel Round's three-pointer and free throws from Luke Nelson.

Israel desperately tried to claw their way back and Roy Ayalon's three-pointer cut the England lead to two points, 86-84. But Soluade's drive with 14 seconds left pushed the lead up to 90-84 and he and Nelson sealed a famous victory from the free-throw line.

Israel head coach Natan Cohen saw Naor Sharon record a triple-double for his team (20 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists), but Sharon missed two clutch baskets towards the end. Coach Cohen had nothing but praise for Sharon at the end of the game: "I don't blame him at all. He was our number one, so he must take responsibility in the final moments like this. He missed two times, but that's basketball."

Zalmanson led Israel with 24 points and Or Cahal added 15 points, but Israel will rue a slow start when England jumped out to a 22-7 lead in the first quarter. A much-improved second quarter saw Sharon's drive inside cut the lead to seven, England ahead 33-26 at half-time.

Soluade began the second half with a dunk and Nelson hit a three-pointer to extend the lead to 12 points, but Israel were not finished and Cahal's three-pointer reduced the deficit at the end of the third period before Dwayne Orija scored a buzzer-beater to give England a 59-53 advantage going to the fourth quarter.

Israel fought throughout the fourth quarter but England kept scoring crucial baskets to stay in the lead. Finally, with 35 seconds remaining, Sharon hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 76-76. Tyrell Isaacs replied with a lay-up, but Zalmanson's crucial score sent the game to overtime.

Nelson led England with 27 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Soluade had 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, and Kingsley Okoroh dominated the lane with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocked shots. England will play Slovenia on Sunday to decide the Division B gold-medal winners.

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