EuroBasket 2015: Bulgaria qualifies for semifinals

EuroBasket 2015

Austria’s Benedik Danek drives past Denmark’s Adama Darbo.

After a huge third quarter and then fighting off a last minute comeback, Bulgaria grabbed the first seat in the semifinals of the EuroBasket 2015 Qualifier with an 81:79 Group A victory over Iceland. The other three groups will not be determined until the final night of the first round, Aug. 16.

In Group B, the final contest will pit the Netherlands (2-1) against Portugal (1-2). If the Netherlands win they move on with the best record in the group, but if they lose all three clubs will come out with equal 2-2 records with the semifinalist determined by the score of the contest.

Group C comes down to a winner-take-all match-up between Switzerland (5-0) and Austria (4-1). The Swiss won the first contest 69:63, so an Austria win must come along with a seven-point margin.

Belarus and Slovak Republic come into their final game with even 2-1 records with the winner earning a spot in the semis. The Slovak Republic took the first contest 97:85.

Group A
Bulgaria – Iceland, 81:79
Iceland blew a 12-point lead handing Bulgaria the first seat in the semifinals. The Bulgarians had to hold off the Icelanders’ final charge and Jon Stefansson’s 32 points.

The first half was all Iceland as they opened with a 20:17 first quarter and then took an eight-point lead into the mid-game break, 41:33. Stefansson dropped 17 for Iceland in the first half.

As the second half started Stefansson picked up his 19th point with a jumper and then Jakob Sigurdarson dropped in a lay-up to put Iceland up 12. Bozhidar Avramov knocked down two triples for the Bulgarians, followed by another three-ball by Pavlin Ivanov, to slice the margin to five. Three minutes later Kaloyan Ivanov sank a lay-up, got fouled and connected on the single for a three-point play that put Bulgaria up one, 50:49. Over the next two minutes they continued their run, outscoring Iceland 9:2 to complete a 23:4 run. Iceland hit the last four points in the frame including a buzzer-beater by Hordur Vilhjalmsson to send the game into the final frame with Bulgaria up 60:55.

Stefansson knotted the score at 62 with a jumper, K. Ivanov hit a triple and then a lay-up to push their advantage back to five, 67:62. Iceland made a run of their own through the heart of the fourth quarter and took the lead, 73:72, with four minutes to play. The Bulgarians ran off the next five to get up by four with a minute to play. Stefansson put the Icelanders on his shoulders and dropped a single, a double, and a triple to pull his squad to within a point, 80:79, with nine seconds to play. Branko Mirkovich split a pair for free throws to put the Bulgarians up two, 81:79, with five ticks to play. Stefansson had an opportunity to send the contest into an extra five, but missed inside the paint to give the Group title to Bulgaria.

Group B
Estonia – Portugal, 85:64
Estonia set up a final day showdown between the Netherlands and Portugal with a big win over the Portuguese, 85:64. The final contest will determine the group winner with the advantage going to the Netherlands who win the group with a victory.

Estonia jumped out to an early lead putting up 13 on Portugal in the first frame, 29:16. In the second the Estonians’ advantage peaked at 17, but they closed out the half up 13, 46:33.

In the third Estonia put another eight on the margin, sending the contest to the final frame with the hosts down 68:47. The clubs played to an even 17-17 tie, wrapping up the game with Estonia up 85:64 setting up the final day that will determine who moves on to the semis.

Group C
Switzerland – Luxembourg, 77:59
EuroBasket 2015The Swiss picked up their fifth win in Group C with a 77:59 win over winless Luxembourg. If Switzerland wins their final game against Austria or lose by less than five, they move on to the semifinals. A loss by more than five will send Austria to the semis.

Switzerland got out quick and built a lead that maxed out at 22 at the end of the half getting up 44:22.

To open the second half Luxembourg ran off the first 10 points to cut the margin to 12, 44:32. The Swiss extended their lead back to 16, 53:37, heading into the final 10.

In the fourth Luxembourg made a final run and cut the gap to eight, 61:53, with four minutes to play, but Switzerland outscored Luxembourg 16:6 to finish up 18.

Austria – Denmark, 86:66
Austria used a huge third quarter against Denmark to pick up their fourth win in Group C to set themselves up for a showdown with Switzerland on the final day. The win improves Austria to 4-1 and need a win with greater than a five point margin to move on to the semifinals.

The first quarter of the contest had Denmark get the early lead 21:16. Austria cut the lead by one in the second frame outscoring Denmark 16:15, sending the teams into their respective locker rooms with Denmark holding a 36:32 advantage at the break.

The contest changed in the third with Austria running off 18 unanswered points to take the game from a 42:38 advantage for Denmark to Austria holding a 56:42 margin with four minutes to play in the third frame. Denmark outscored the Austrians 10:6 over those final four minutes to set up the final frame with Austria up 10, 62:52.

Denmark went on a 9:2 run early in the fourth to pull within four, 65:61, with just under seven minutes to play. At that point Austria completely shut Denmark down, scoring the next 10, on their way to wrapping up a 21:5 run that closed the game giving the Austrians an 86:66 victory.

Slovak Republic – Hungary, 79:67
The Slovak Republic set up showdown with Belarus on the final day with a 79:67 win over Hungary. The final contest will pit two clubs sporting equal 2-1 records, sending the winner off to the semifinals.

After losing by 32 points in their first match-up, the Slovak Republic came out quick and scored the first 13, and ending up 23:14. In the second they extended their lead to a peak of 16, and ending up 15 with a triple at the buzzer by Richard Grznár to take a 43:28 lead into the break.

The second half was far more even with Hungary winning both quarters, 24:23 and 15:13, to close out the contest with the Slovaks up 79:67.

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