|16 July 2011|
U20 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP
Russia finished the Preliminary Round of the U20 European Championship in style after a Group A thriller that finished with them defeating Montenegro 68-66.
The win tied the records of both sides at 2-1 and their final standing will depend on the result between Serbia and Slovenia later on today.
In case Slovenia wins, Russia will take the top spot, while Montenegro will hope for a Serbian win to finish first.
The winning side used a huge block by Nikita Balashov in the closing seconds to seal the win after a tough match-up for 40 minutes.
"Sometimes you lose by a basket, and sometimes you win - this is basketball," concluded Mihailo Pavicevic, coach of Montenegro who won the Day 1 game at the final buzzer.
No less than 10 players scored today for Russia, led by Balashov and Andrey Zubkov with 13 points each.
"Yesterday we were talking about shot blocking between ourselves, and Balashov just has a great sense for this," shared Pavel Antipov of Russia.
"I'm so happy for the way he helped us win today, I want to kiss him."
Bojan Dubljevic led Montenegro with 25 points and 10 rebounds while Nikola Ivanovic and Milutin Dukanovic added 12 each.
It was a close run from the very beginning and none of the first three quarters was decided by more than a single point, all in favor of Montenegro.
Dubljevic collected 11 points and 6 rebounds already in the first half, while Russia shared points between 9 players already at that stage.
After 13 lead changes and 10 tied scores, it came down to the last seconds.
Balashov and Dubljevic missed on both sides with Montenegro still up by a point until Ivan Strebkov showed great foot work, attacked the rim and finished with a lay-up plus the bonus from the foul line, leaving only 5 seconds for his rivals.
Dubljevic got the chance to tie but saw Balashov come out of nowhere and block the shot attempt.
Dukanovic was first on the rebound with time running down, but failed to make the Day 1 buzzer-beater happen again, and his shot hit the rim and flew out as the Russians celebrated on the floor.