Andorra takes Small Countries Championship over Moldova

Andorra captured their first title at the European Championship Small Countries Men since 2004 and fourth in their history with a 74-72 over Moldova on Saturday in San Marino.

Jaume Tomas Vilana’s team went in front in the first quarter at the Arena Domus and then led by as many as 16 points in the second half but had to pull hold on for dear life at the end.

Moldova trailed 58-45 heading into the last frame but closed the gap to 67-63 with 1:34 remaining on a jump shot by Ivan Cropotov.

After an Andorra timeout, Daniel Marin turned the ball over back to Moldova and Vladimir Priscepnii made a lay-up to reduce the arrears to 67-65 with 1:15 to play.

Nicolai Coputerco fouled Andorra’s Xavier Galera and the point guard sank two free-throws to push the advantage back to 69-65.

Cropotov then missed a shot, and fouled Cinto Gabriel.

Moldova burned a timeout and when played resumed, Gabriel sank just one of two at the charity stripe for a 70-65 Andorra advantage.

Anton Rulevski gave Moldova hope by connecting from behind the arc and he then drew a foul on their next possession and sank two free-throws to pull to his team to within 72-70.

Cropotov next picked off a pass from Galera and got the rebound on his own missed jumper and scored to knot the contest at 72-72.

Andorra didn’t cave in.

Rafael Casals put Vilana’s side back in front with a jump shot on a fast-break with just seven seconds to play.

Shortly after, Marin fouled Rulevski and he had an opportunity to bring Moldova level but missed two free-throws.

After an Andorra timeout, Moldova fouled Casals and he failed to convert two free-throws but time expired and Vilana’s squad celebrated a famous victory.

Neither team shot the ball well from the free-throw line.

Andorra were just 11 of 21 (52.4%) and Moldova sank 10 of 18 (55.6%).

Oriol Fernandez, Galera and Marin finished with 16 points apiece for Andorra, who out-rebounded Moldova 50-35.

In defeat, Cropotov had 18 points, Rulevski 16 and Priscepnii 13 points and 13 boards.

Andorra had finished second at the European Championship Small Countries Men two years ago while in 2008, Moldova were the runners-up.

In the battle for third place that was waged before the title game, Malta won 96-57 over San Marino.

The winners raced into a 28-13 lead by the end of the opening quarter and stormed to a comprehensive victory.

Samuel Deguara had 41 points and 15 rebounds for Malta, who also finished third in 2010.

The first game of the afternoon saw Scotland roll to an 84-60 victory over Gibraltar to finish in sixth place.

Nicholas Collins had 20 points to lead the Scots.

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