The third spot in the Citta di Roma tournament belongs to Stella Azzurra following a 68-59 victory over FMP, the defending European junior champion, on Tuesday evening in Rome, Italy. The tournament is the first of four qualifying games played throughout Europe in the coming weeks to determinate the four automatic qualifiers to the Nike International Junior Tournament in Paris during the 2010 Euroleague Final Four in May. Stella used a late 15-2 run in the fourth quarter to decide what was a close game for almost 35 minutes. Bruno Ondo Mengue played the entire 40 minutes for Stella, posting 18 points and 7 rebounds. Ojars Silins continued his good form with 15 points in his last game of the tournament, while Simone Zanotti added 12 with 8 rebounds and Matteo Pallucca added 12 of his own. Stefan Popovski-Turanjanin had 14 points and 12 rebounds for FMP, Nikola Pavlovic added 13 and Nikola Siladi finished with 9 points and 15 rebounds. Nendad Miljenovic missed this game as well for FMP, which hit only 48% of its 25 free throws attempts.
The game started with a defensive orientation as after 4 minutes FMP held a 1-2 lead. The Serbs were the first to recover and open a 1-7 margin, but Ondo Mengue carried Stella on an 8-0 run, to take its first lead. FMP added only a single point until the end of the first buzzer, but limited its opponent to only 11 to remain close behind. Milan Stevanovic carried a 0-9 FMP run, as the lead changed hands once again, but Ondo Mengue was a force in the paint and Fallucca scored five in a row before the buzzer as the teams walked off the court for the break separated by a single point in favor of FMP, 28-29. The second half started the same way as the first one. Both sides struggled to score, and the first bucket came only after three minutes with Silins hit a downtown ace. Two minutes later Fallucca and Silins repeated the action with two more arrows and the gap extended to 39-31, but FMP wasn't about to give up yet. Pavlovic scored five in a row, and the FMP bigs drew fouls near the rim to tie the score at 42-42, and early in the fourth take the lead back once more. With seven minutes to play Aleksander Filipovic scored his first points in the game, behind the arc, and set the score on 43-47 but that's when things changed in favor of Stella. Ondo Mengue's activity around the board played a key role, while his assist to a Simone Zanotti dunk was the highlight of the 15-2 run, that brought the sides to a 58-49 score with only two minutes on the clock. An active Siladi gave one last effort, but Silins and Ondo Mengue were accurate from the line to lock the win in favor of Stella and leave FMP to settle for the fourth spot.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009