The final four of the U18 European Championships Division B has been locked, with Montenegro, Slovakia, Ukraine and Hungary reaching the semifinals. The nations all overcame their respective quarterfinal showdowns and are not a win away from making the final in Skopje on August 7. .
Tight contests were the order of the day as three of the four quarterfinal games were decided in the closing stages. However, Montenegro cruised through and its passage to the U18 European Championships Division B semis was slicker. It is with the Montenegrins we will start.
Montenegro vs. Poland, 73-53
Montenegro set a marker down early, plundering 27 points in the opening quarter and stopping Poland at 16 points. The 11 point advantage was extended in the second frame and through halftime the Montenegrins led 48-34. The scoring simply stopped through a third act strewn with huge defending and many an offensive blunder. However, the leaders all but settle the game with an 8-3 run that allowed a cruise through the fourth quarter. Milos Popovic was the star of the Montenegro show with a double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Estonia vs. Slovakia, 67-71
Slovakia survived a fourth quarter rally from Estonia to progress in the U18 European Championships Division B. The Estonians took an early 15-16 lead through the first split, but Slovakia responded in the second and third quarters to be leading 41-50 through thirty minutes. Estonia hit the offensive accelerator in the fourth act and scored 25 points to Slovakia’s 21. However, the Slovaks had points in the bank and secured the win. Marek Dolezaj doubled up in the win with 14 points and 13 boards.
Ukraine vs. Czech Republic, 67-62
A winning first half was enough for Ukraine to outlast the Czech Republic on Friday and progress to the semifinals. A huge 23-10 first quarter made it a double digit game early one, before the Ukraine bolstered its advantage with a 14-11 second frame. Through the long break the score was 37-21 and the Czech Republic had much to do. The team picked it up in the third, but Ukraine kept pace to lock the quarter 18-18. A late rally made it interesting though as the Czech’s won the fourth 12-23 and made it a last minute contest. Illia Niemtsu paced the winners with 21 points and 8 rebounds.
Hungary vs. Belgium, 68-63
Finally, Hungary edged into the last four with a victory over Belgium in the Macedonian capital. It was a victory built on an explosive third quarter. Belgium held all the cards through halftime, the team won the first frame 16-20 and the second 12-21 for a commanding 28-41 advantage as the mid-term buzzer sounded. It all rested on the third act, and Hungary came out of the locker room on fire. The team drained 29 points and stopped the Belgians at 6 points. It was a stunning reverse that gave the Hungarians a 57-47 lead through thirty minutes. Belgium got back to winning ways in the fourth, but it was simply too late.