The two home clubs in the semifinal round of the EuroBasket 2015 Qualifier Tournament took care of business in front of their respective home crowds by picking up wins in the first of the two game series. Belarus earned a hard-fought 76:70 win over Estonia, that came down to the last minute of the contest. Bulgaria put up 21 on Switzerland in the second semifinal game, coming out of their match-up with a 92:71 win.
The return games will be played Sunday, 25 August, in Estonia and Switzerland.
Bulgaria – Switzerland, 92:71
Bulgaria set up a showdown in Switzerland with a huge 21-point victory in the opening contest of their semifinal. The Swiss will have their work cut out for them when they open their doors for the second game on Sunday and have to cover the difference.
Switzerland got the first points of the contest, but the hosts got up early and took the first frame 25:17. Bulgaria pressed on in the second, getting up by 14, 40:26, with just under four minutes to play. From there on the Swiss outscored Bulgaria 15:4, including the last 10 points of the half to cut the lead down to three, 44:41, at the half.
The guests opened the quarter with a lay-up, which was countered by five straight by Bulgaria. From there the Swiss ran off 13 unanswered to take a seven-point lead, 56:49. Bulgaria followed with eight of their own to retake the advantage 57:56. The clubs knotted the score at 59, then the Bulgarians outscored their guests 9:2 to close out the quarter up, 68:61.
Through the midway point of the final frame Bulgaria outscored the Swiss 15:2, to get up 20, 83:63, and put the game away. Over the last half of the quarter the clubs fought to work on the point differential with Bulgaria working extend the lead and the Swiss trying to reduce.
Aleksandar Georgiev was high-man for Bulgaria with 13 points. Dusan Mladjan and Clint Capela dropped in 18 each for Switzerland.
Belarus – Estonia, 76:70
Belarus earned a six-point advantage over Estonia with a 76:70 win at home in the first game of their semifinal contest. Neither team built a lead greater than eight during a game that featured numerous lead changes.
The clubs exchanged the lead through the better part of the first until the Estonians dropped the final four points to take the quarter 25:21.
After another four from the guests to start the second 10, Belarus ran off nine unanswered to get up 32:27. After their lead peaked at seven, Estonia went on an 8:2 run to pull within a point, 38:37, before Belarus closed scoring in the half with a lay-up to give the hosts a 40:37 advantage heading into the break.
The third frame was low-scoring with Belarus adding five to their lead, 11:6, to head into the final frame up eight, 51:43.
Estonia got the first four of the fourth to cut the lead to four. With six minutes to play they had cut the lead to a single point, 56:55. Three more times over the last five minutes Estonia would pull to within a point, only to have Belarus extend back to four or six points. The last run came with one minute and 37 seconds to play, when Estonia’s Kristjan Kangur dropped a three-ball to bring the score to 69:68. On the following trip down the court Belarus got a three of their own. From three, after a lay-up on the Estonian end, Aliaksandr Kudrautsau hit the final six of the contest, while Estonia was shut out.
Belarus’ Kudrautsau and Estonia’s Reinar Hallik were game-high with 21 points each.
“It was a heavy, tense struggle. There are a lot of hard plays from all players, from both teams. We could tie the game in the 4th quarter , but luck was on their side.”
Tiit Sokk, head coach of Estonia:
“Two equal rivals faced each other today. There was a little bit of luck for us at the clutch moment and we have a small advantage. But our team will play for the victory in the second game.”
–Ruslan Baydakov, head coach of Belarus: