Following a perfect performance in the London Nike International Junior Tournament Union Olimpija Ljubljana won the top spot on the podium behind a 76-60 victory over USK Future Stars Prague in the title game on Saturday evening in London, England. Olimpija finished the tournament with a perfect 5-0 record and won the last ticket to the Nike International Junior Tournament, to be held in Paris, France during the 2010 Euroleague Final Four weekend. The tournament in London was the 4th and last of the qualifying competitions leading to the big annual event. USK wrote a huge start and held an 8-21 lead at the end of the first quarter, but saw Olimpija tie the game until the break and take over in the second half as Gezim Morina and Jan Span displayed their top game. The tournament's MVP Morina led the winners with 28 points and 11 rebounds followed by All-tournament Span who scored 12 as well as Klemen Prepelic who hit 12 points as well. Michal Sotnar was the top scorer of USK with 20 points while Jaroslav Moravek contributed 11 and 10 rebounds.
Two minutes of a balanced start with a tied 4-4 finished with a storming attack by USK. Five players scored in an exciting 15-2 run to put the Czech team up by 13 all the way to the end of the first quarter, with a 21-8 margin. However, the two-minute break made a huge difference on both ends. Morina scored from the arc and around the rim to carry his team to a 2-11 run, and make it a wide open game once again. Moravek pushed the gap up to 6, but saw Ziga Markus tie the score at 25-25 after 16 minutes to complete the come back. Yet, the future stars of USK showed character as Sotnar hit back-to-back three pointers, only to watch Olimpija example the same trick with Petrovic and then Prepelic and take a 32-33 lead at the edge of the first half. Ondrej Balvin performed in the paint to draw Morina's first foul and then score from the line, but Luka Grum beat the buzzer and set the half time score on 34-35 in favor of Olimpija.
Olimpija returned sharper from the break, with big shots and aggressive defense. USK tried to score from close and far ranges, but couldn't find the way to the rim in the first 4 minutes of the third quarter. Morina was in a different situation, and led his team to score 9 points in a row he capped with a three pointer. He added another one from the perimeter to write a 37-49 lead, but USK finally found its answer. Sotnar took responsibility, hit a three pointer and then attacked the rim to earn also a bonus point from the line, good enough for a 47-54 difference at the end of the fourth quarter. USK's momoentum continued until Span saw his team in trouble, up by just 5, and showed presence with two points, a rebound and a big assist for a three point shot by Prepelic to set the score on 49-60 with 6 minutes to play. Morina added 4 more points to set the gap on 14, but the Czech players still fought for every ball, and with two and a half minutes to go down by 14 called a time out for one last effort. However, Olimpija wasn't going to let the game slip, and managed to extend the lead margin to 16 at the buzzer.
Saturday, February 20, 2010