Croatia end Irish dream
23/11/2002 - 8:03:26 pm
Ireland's European Championship finals dream looks almost certain to be over, following a devastating 87-69 result against Croatia.There was no shortage of drama in Zagreb, where a fourth quarter incident stalled the game for over half an hour, when the Croatian backboard had to be replaced.Croatia's Prkacin went up for a dunk in the opening minute of the final quarter, when the glass board smashed injuring the Irish defense.
Tim Kennedy and Marty Conlon were on the front line and received superficial facial and shoulder injuries, keeping them benched for the remainder of the game.
The Irish team that usually save their best for the second half got demolished in the third quarter with the home team outscoring Ireland 36-18.
Despite a promising opening quarter, Ireland never got comfortable in the game and Croatia never looked threatened.
Ireland opened up an early lead before a big three-pointer from Mulaomerovic gave Croatia a 16-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, a lead that they never relinquished.
Ireland were very much in the game in the second quarter but some sloppy turnovers and too many off-target attempts looked ominous for the Irish.
Cal Bowdler did it all for Ireland in the second quarter and despite his 14-point first half contribution, Ireland trailed 37-33 at half time.
Ireland collapsed in the third quarter, Croatia hitting 14 unanswered points and pulling away 51-33 four minutes into the second half.
Skelim caused huge problems in the Irish defense throughout the period and despite some outstanding play that included 18-points from Glenn Sekuna, Ireland trailed 73-52 going into the final quarter.When play finally resumed in the final quarter, Ireland fought hard without Kennedy and Conlon, but victory at that stage was a mammoth task that looked unlikely to happen.
Ireland outscored Croatia 14-18 in the final quarter, but it was not enough, and with defeat went Ireland's European Championship hopes.
Only some very unlikely results will rekindle Ireland's hopes of qualification to the finals in Sweden 2003, with Germany, Croatia and Bosnia now almost certain to go through.