|14 July 2011|
U20 European Championship
Milutin Dukanovic is the hero of the day for Montenegro after his thriller shot gave his team an 80-77 win over Slovenia on the opening day of the U20 European Championship.
The win pushes Montenegro to a 1-0 record in Group A, while Slovenia will seek their first win tomorrow.
A great second half comeback by Montenegro was capped with Dukanovic's shot that hit the backboard with 3 seconds to go and shocked Slovenia that led throughout most of the game and held a 17 point lead early in the third quarter.
Bojan Dubljevic led the way for Montenegro with 30 points and 12 rebounds and he was the story of the day and the two different halves on the floor.
Dubljevic finished the first half with only 4 points in 1 rebound but wrote an amazing second half to lead his team back.
The young Nikola Ivanovic finished with 15 points. Slovenia saw Alen Omic collect 28 points with only two missed shots from the floor, while Edo Muric added 16 with 9 rebounds.
Montenegro dominated the paint on both ends by grabbed no less than 25 offensive rebounds, even more than they collected at the other side - 21.
"At the break I told my players just to forget about the score and play their game," commented Mihailo Pavicevic, coach of Montenegro.
"I know my team and what they can do, so I was confident they can play better. I might have put too much pressure on them when I said before coming here that we're going to win the championship, and maybe that's why we started slow, but I'm very happy with the way we played.
"As for the last play that won the game coach Pavicevic was very clear with his opinion. "I didn't have the chance to take a time out for the last play but I keep telling my players that I always want them to step up and take the last shot and it doesn't matter if you make it or not. The worst thing to do is to run away from these shots and Milutin looked at me after making that shot. He knew what I thought about it."
Slovenia enjoyed the better start as Muric and Jan Span created an 11-17 gap after 7 minutes.
Ivanovic showed his presence already in the first quarter and his three pointer before the buzzer wrote a 17-21 on the scoreboard, and a minute inside the second quarter it was a tied game, but that's when Slovenia took off.
Muric and Marko Pajic opened the gap to 10 points and with a great finish to the first half the later set the score on 31-49.
It took Montenegro a couple more minutes to show their different side and with 18 minutes to play it was still 35-52 but then the beast Dubljevic woke up. Together with Ivanovic they led an 11-0 run that made it a whole new game. although Omic kept his team still on top. Marko Todorovic hit his first points with 3:19 to go to give Montenegro their first lead since the 5th minute, and marked the start of the thriller.
"We lost the game because we allowed them to catch too many offensive rebounds, as in the last play while at the other side missed free throws and lay-ups." concluded Radomir Mijanovic of the Slovenian bench.
The teams exchanged points and Omic tied the score at 77-77 with still a lot of time to play - 1:39 to go, yet missed shots at both ends gave Montenegro the ball.
Ivanovic missed a key shot but grabbed his own rebound and gave Dukanovic the chance to hit the clutch shot.