Twelve more teams dove into EuroBasket 2009 qualifying on Wednesday with Euroleague and Eurocup stars leading their respective national teams to wins around the continent. In Tel Aviv, Meir Tapiro of Bnei Hasharon hit a pair of free throws with less than a second left in regulation to force overtime and then Maccabi Tel Aviv big man Yaniv Green stepped up in overtime as Israel beat Great Britain 102-92. Cholet Basket's Nando De Colo erupted for 28 points in 27 minutes to lead France to an 82-63 win over Belgium. Back in Group A, which has been playing for two weeks, Partizan Igokea forward Novica Velickovic scored 20 to lead Serbia past Bulgaria 74-64, knotting the teams atop that group's standings at 3-1. The qualifying action continues with eight games on Saturday, including battles between Italy and Serbia, France and Ukraine, and Great Britain and the Czech Republic.
Serbia bounced back from a surprise loss to Finland by dumping Bulgaria 74-64. The trio of Partizan forward Novica Velickovic, BC Triumph center Nenad Krstic and Olympiacos guard Milos Teodosic guided Serbia, which handed Bulgaria its first defeat. The two teams now share the Group A lead at 3-1. Velickovic recorded 20 points to pace Serbia, Krstic added 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks and Teodosic netted 11 and dished 7 assists. Ibrahim Jaaber paced Bulgaria with 12. Earlier in the day, Finland came back from an early double-digit deficit to rout Hungary 64-79. Petteri Koponen led the charge with 17 points, Kimmo Muurinen added 13 and Hanno Mottola recorded 10 points and 9 rebounds for Finalns, which improved to 2-2. Erno Sitku scored 20 to pace Hungary, which fell to 1-3. In Group B, Latvia edged F.Y.R. of Macedonia 83-82 in overtime thanks to a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Kristaps Janicenoks. FYROM never trailed in the fourth quarter, but failed to score in the final two-and-a-half minutes of regulation, allowing Andris Biedrins to tie it for Latvia at 74-74. Dimitar Mirakovski could have won it with 2 seconds remaining for the visitors, but missed twice from the line. Biedrins continued to fuel Latvia in overtime, but Latvia stayed close. Union Olimpija point guard Vlado Ilievski put FYROM up 80-82 with a free throw with 10 seconds left and then Jeremiah Massey seemed to wrap it up with a block on Kaspars Berzins's last effort, but Janicenoks picked up the loose ball and hit from downtown at the buzzer to win it. Biedrins carried Latvia with 30 points and 22 rebounds, Janicenoks finished with 16 and Janis Blums of iurbentia Bilbao Basket added 11. Vrbica Stefanov led FYROM with 25 points, Todor Gecevski of Zadar added 21, Massey recorded 14 points and 11 rebounds and Ilievski finished with 13. And Estonia got 28 points from Gert Kullamae and 20 from Tanel Sokk in beating Portugal 70-79. Carlos Andrade led the hosts with 14.
Turkey and France started strong in Group C. Turkey cruised past Ukraine 86-73 and France blasted Belgium 82-63. Fenerbahce Ulker big man Oguz Savas scored half his team's points in a 12-2 run to close out the second period and give Turkey a 51-37 halftime lead, which it never relinquished. Savas, Efes Pilsen's Kerem Gonlum and Hedu Turkoglu scored 15 apiece to lead Turkey. Turkoglu also recorded 7 rebounds and 5 assists, while BC Triumph's Kerem Tunceri hit 3 threes en route to 13 points and Ersan Ilyasova of Barcelona posted 10 points and 12 boards. Artem Butskyy and Andriy Agafonov led Ukraine with 15 points each. France pulled away in the second half after leading just 34-33 at the break to beat Belgium. Cholet Basket guard Nando De Colo shined with 18 points in 27 minutes and Tony Parker contributed 19 to lead the French. Sam Van Rossom scored 17 and Christophe Beghin added 12 for Belgium. Meanwhile Meir Tapiro's clutch shooting helped Israel to a 102-92 overtime win in both team's Group D opener. After Nate Reinking put the visitors up 85-83 with 3 seconds to go in regulation, Tapiro drew a foul with less than a second remaining and netted a pair of free throws to tie the score at 85-85 and force overtime. Yaniv Green of Maccabi Tel Aviv then stepped up with 6 points in a 13-2 game-ending run to wrap up the win. Tapiro of Eurocup side Bnei Hasharon led Israel with 27 points and 6 assists, while Lior Eliyahu of Maccabi produced 24 points, Green posted 13 and Olympiacos’s Yotam Halperin had 10. Luol Deng carried Great Britain with 30 points, Joel Freeland of Gran Canaria added 14 points and 9 rebounds and Jarrett Hart scored 13. Also in Group D, the Czech Republic pulled away in the second half to best Bosnia and Herzegovina 70-56. Petr Benda shined with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Ladislav Sokolovsky scored 13 and Unicaja's Jiri Welsch added 11 points and dished 5 assists. Tau Ceramica power forward Mirza Teletovic led Bosnia and Herzegovina with 10 points in defeat.