Croatian under 18 basketball team defeats Montenegro
Croatia Wins In Thriller, Vrsaljko Brilliant
In the women U18 European championship Croatian national team defeated Montenegro 66-62.
Marija Vrsaljko - Photo: kosarka.hr
In the women U18 European championship Croatian national team defeated Montenegro 66-62 in a deciding match to avoid early elimination. Our team led by Vrsaljko-Nikpalj duo reduced 11-point deficit from the 28th minute to advance to the top eight teams.
After a day break Croatia will face two top teams from the group A in search of the semifinal spot. Belgium, Portugal, Ireland and Israel are possible opponents and the names will be known on Tuesday.
Stipe Bralic's players finished the opening quarter with 13-12 lead thanks to nine points from Marija Vrsaljko. Unfortunately, poor performance in the rest of the first half put our team close to the elimination (34-24).
Montenegro kept that lead until two final minutes of the third quarter when Vrsaljko and Nikpalj created 9-2 run to bring Croatia to 47-43. Within 80 seconds Nikpalj scored 3-pointer while Vrsaljko converted two free throws and a 2-pointer for 7-0 run and 55-53 Croatian lead in the 36th minute.
However, Culafic responded with a 3-pointer, our team received two technical fouls and Vukadinovic added another long range shot to give our opponents 61-55 advantage. Only two and a half minutes were left in the game but Croatia had brilliant Marija Vrsaljko who answered with seven consecutive points for minimal 62-61 Croatian lead 50 seconds before the end.
After the time-out Jovanovic converted only one free throw to tie the game (62-62) but our Nikpalj followed the same 27 seconds before the end (62-63). Montenegro had final possession but Cavic committed a turnover and Nikpalj sealed the win from the penalty line.
Vrsaljko had fantastic performance with 36 points and 19 rebounds. Nikpalj added 19 points, six rebounds and four steals. Montenegro had as many as 29 turnovers. Aleksic had 26 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and 10 turnovers for the defeated team. Culafic scored 19 points.
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