EuroBasket 2015: Bulgaria takes G1 over Estonia

EuroBasket 2015On the strength of an 18:0 run in the third quarter, host club Bulgaria took the first leg of a two-game series with Estonia, 58:55, in a contest that will determine the first Qualifier for EuroBasket 2015.

It was an important game for the spot at EuroBasket 2015. That’s why both teams played hard and tough. We started quite well. Bulgaria made a great effort [to come back] in the third quarter. They pressed us a lot, so we started to miss shots. In the last quarter we managed to come back. It will be really hard [at home] because Bulgaria is a very good team with good players. But I hope – we have a big chance to succeed.
–Tiit Sokk, head coach of Estonia

Leading the way for Bulgaria was the Ivanov twins, Kaloyan turned in a 15P/11R double-double and Deyan added 12 points and 5 assists.

It was really hard for us in the first half. It was obvious that both teams were nervous – we were under pressure, because this is a final for the spot at EuroBasket 2015. This game doesn’t show the real abilities of the two teams. Both teams played very good in defense. Today we were really nervous and that is why our shooting percentage was so bad. It is a question of psychology. I wish we’d won with bigger difference. We have the quality and will try to win in Tallinn. We played good defense today and if we go on this way, it will be easier for us to score. The pressure stays with the hosts as it was with us today.
–Konstantin Papazov, head coach of Bulgaria

The first quarter set the tone for the game with neither team getting ahead by more than three points, with Bulgaria taking the frame 16:15.

Estonia scored seven unanswered earlier in the second quarter to put together a six-point lead, 27:21. Their lead grew to nine, 35:26 with a minute to play. Bulgaria scored the final five of the half to pull to within four, 35:31, as they head to the dressing rooms for the mid-game break.

To open the second half Bulgaria scored the first 13 points to get up 44:35. By the time Estonia put their first points on the board in the second half Bulgaria would run off 18 straight to build a nine-point lead, which is where they stood at the end of the third 10, 50:41, after outscoring Estonia 19:6 in the frame.

Countering the start Bulgaria put together in the third frame, Estonia hit eight straight to open the fourth and pull to within a point, 50:49. Two minutes later they knotted the score at 53. With 1:43 remaining Siim-Sander Vene split a pair of free throws for Estonia to bring the score to 58:55, which would be the final points scored in the contest. In the final three minutes Estonia went 2 of 4 from the line, turned the ball over twice, and missed four jumpers, including two triples in the final five seconds that would have tied the score.

Game two of the series will move to Tallinn, Estonia, on Sunday, 1 Sept.

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