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Opening round finishes in Slovenia

Latvia-09-09-2013Ukraine and Belgium on Monday clinched the last two spots on offer in Group A for the second phase of EuroBasket 2013.

On the final day of opening round action, Ukraine rolled to a big win over Great Britain and Germany defeated Israel, ensuring the Belgians would progress before they ran onto the floor to face the French.

The Belgians, Germans and Britons each have 2-3 records, but Belgium have advanced on a tie-breaker.

In the first game of the day in Ljubljana, Ukraine put an exclamation mark on their Group A campaign with an 87-68 victory over Great Britain.

Mike Fratello’s team, who needed to win to be absolutely certain of a spot in the next round, broke open a close contest in the second quarter.

On top 31-25, Ukraine reeled off 12 unanswered points with five different scorers and never turned back.

Using their considerable size advantage, the winners out-rebounded Britain 40-28 and also outscored them 40-16 in the paint.

Ukraine also shot the ball extremely well from the arc, making 10 of 23 attempts.

“Great Britain played very good basketball throughout this tournament,” Fratello said.

“They had a chance to advance depending on what happened. But we also wanted to advance, and it was important to our players to advance by winning.”

Germany won for the second time at the EuroBasket, overcoming Israel’s strong start to prevail, 80-76.

Arik Shivek’s team went into the last day of the competition gunning for their second victory and led 20-12 after the first quarter but Frank Menz’s team stormed back and led by one at half-time.

With Lucca Staiger and Per Gunther each pouring in 15 points, the Germans held on.

In the third Group A game, France trailed Belgium 30-19 after the first quarter and 46-34 at half-time but then outscored Belgium 32-9 in the third quarter to take the lead and ended up winning by 17, 82-65.

Tony Parker had 20 points to lead Les Bleus.

In Group B, Serbia, Lithuania and Latvia ended up as the top three sides and reached the second round.

The Latvians made sure they were going to advance with a victory over The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonnia (MKD), 76-66.

Kristaps Janicenoks and Kaspars Berzins led the way with 15 points apiece.

Berzins also corralled nine rebounds for the Latvians, who took command in the opening quarter when outscoring MKD, 27-16, and led the entire contest.

“It was our last chance – live or die,” Berzins said. “That’s what we talked about before the game. We need to leave everything behind and just play asa team. That’s what we did.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina won for the third straight time by beating Lithuania, 78-72, yet had to settle for fourth place and miss the second round.

Aco Petrovic’s side got 31 points from Mirza Teletovic and 20 from Nihad Djedovic.

Coach Petrovic doesn’t know if he will continue in the job but hasn’t ruled it out.

“At this moment, I can not talk about what will happen in the future,” Petrovic said. “Let things settle.

“What I can say is that we are the moral winners of this EuroBasket. ”

Montenegro claimed their second victory of the EuroBasket, downing Serbia 83-76.

Tyrese Rice had 12 points and Bojan Dubljevic 11 for the Montenegrins.

The teams from Groups A and B to advance will now play in Group E, and both France and Serbia will carry two wins with them.

Each side has four points ahead of Lithuania and Ukraine, who carry one win each and have three points.

Latvia and Belgium have no wins and just two points since the teams they beat in the first round have been eliminated.

Spain, Slovenia and Croatia took the top three spots in Group C to progress.

In the most important battle in Celje on Monday, Croatia pulled away from the Czech Republic in the second half for a 70-53 triumph.

Since opening the tournament with a 28-point defeat to Spain, Croatia have reeled off four straight victories.

The Czechs, who led 31-30 at half-time, would have advanced with a win over Croatia.

“I am really happy,” Croatia coach Jasmin Repesa said.

“After a poor opening game, we didn’t give up. We are playing better in every game and now we have four wins in a row. We take one victory to the next round, which was our objective before the tournament.

“I’ve seen some of the other games and really, I think this was the strongest group in the championship.”

Coming off a hard-fought, overtime success against hosts Slovenia, the Croatians were impressive.

Five players reached double digits in points, with Ante Tomic’s 12 a team-high.

Tomic also had nine rebounds.

“We played a great first half but unfortunately in the second, Croatia showed their experience,” said Pavel Pumprla, the Czech who had 19 points.

“They made some tough shots at the beginning of the third quarter and we weren’t able to keep up the tempo that we wanted.”

The Czechs shot only five of 21 (24%) at the free-throw line.

Jan Vesely, one of the top players in the EuroBasket, endured a nightmare at the stripe, making one of 10.

Pavel Budinsky, the Czech coach, felt his team took a step forward this summer.

“Let’s be fair,” he said. “They deserve it. For me, it was an outstanding tournament for the team, a great experience to play with these teams.”

Spain cruised to another easy victory, beating Georgia, 83-59.

Ricky Rubio provided a spark on defense and also led the two-time defending champions with 16 points after making all seven of his shots from the floor.

Sergio Rodriguez was also outstanding with 15 points for Spain, who won for the fourth time in five games.

Slovenia, looking to get the winning feeling back after their overtime defeat to Croatia, failed to do so against Poland in the last game of the night in Celje.

Thomas Kelati shined for the Poles, connecting on five of seven shots from the arc and played outstanding defense in a 71-61 victory for Dirk Bauermann’s side.

Looking to salvage some pride from a disappointing week, Poland went in front by 20 points in the second half before easing home.

Marcin Gortat 19 points and 12 rebounds for Poland.

In Group D, Finland stayed red hot.

They defeated Greece, 86-77, just one day after edging Russia in double overtime.

The Finns outscored Greece 21-12 in the third quarter.

Petteri Koponen erupted for 29 points to lead the team in scoring.

“It is a great win for us and we take two points more for the next round,” Koponen said.

Italy, the only side to beat Finland, remained undefeated with an 82-79 victory over Sweden.

Jeffery Taylor had a game-high 28 points for the Swedes and Jonas Jerebko 21.

The Italians decided to rest guard Marco Belinelli.

“Today I didn’t want to risk Belinelli, as he is suffering a bit with his muscles,” Italy coach Simone Pianigiani said.

Turkey squared off against Russia in the battle for the wooden spoon in Group D and the Russians prevailed, 89-79.

Sergey Karasev had 25 points for Russia, who broke open a tight game in the fourth quarter.

The sides from Groups C and D will now play in Group F, and undefeated Italy are the only team to carry two wins into the second phase.

Spain, Slovenia, Finland and Croatia all have one win from the first round and Greece have taken no wins from Group D to the second phase.

Eleven teams – everyone but Spain – will battle for the six qualifying places to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. As hosts of the tournament, the Spaniards are already automatically qualified.

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