The Final game of this year’s Nike International Junior Tournament has been played this afternoon in the Palais Omnisports Paris-Barcy in front of approximately 1000 spectators. And it was the French hosts of INSEP that took the victory with them and kicked FMP from the throne. After the Serbians managed to beat the French team in Belgrade in February, this result can be considered as a nice revenge for the French selection that has never been invited to this event before.
INSEP started well into the game against a FMP team playing man-to-man defense where they lost the individual match-ups with the French players. Behind an excellent Ulysse Adjagba who took care of Nenad Miljenovic on defense, INSEP could build a lead in the first quarter up to 19-11 after the first ten minutes where William Howard stepped up and showed his scoring talent. In the second quarter, FMP came out with a zone defense and immediately came back in the score to force the French coach to take a time out at 21-19. But the zone of the Serbian team slowed down afterwards (FMP had 0 team fouls over a long stretch) and Hugo Invernizzi used the open positions he had from behind the arc to keep the lead for INSEP. Miljenovic continued to struggle in taking the lead for FMP and missed two free-throws in a row that were followed by a nice bucket of Invernizzi again so that INSEP went to half time with a 36-32 lead.
The Serbian team came back from the break with a man-to-man defense again and Adjagba used it to attack his defender on the drive and score the 2 free-throws after the foul. He continued with his excellent performance as he stole the ball in the passing lane to go for the break away jam which forced the Serbian coach to take an early time-out. But this did not really help as the disappointing Bogdan Bogdanovic turned it over and gave Adjagba yet another score on the drive. The absence of a tall inside player like FMP had the years before in Dejan Musli caused them a lot of trouble as the French guards could drive at will through the zone to score close to the basket. So the defending champions switched back to zone defense and Nenad Miljenovic took over the lead on the offensive end. With 6 points in a row and a blocked shot on the 3rd quarter buzzer, he kept his team alive at 54-57 before the last ten minutes of the game.
But the French started once again very strong in the last quarter behind another three pointer by Hugo Invernizzi and a big block of Yannis Morrin which lead to easy points on the break. A difference of ten points was made and FMP seemed to not believe anymore in their chances to defend the title. The team started to play an unstructured offense and Miljenovic could not take control of his team’s play. One scene that was characteristic for this situation was an offense where he did not touch the ball once and stepped back to nearly the mid-court line while his team mates were taking a bad shot. Nemanja Bezbradica tried some last minute efforts in the paint by attacking the French players physically but the play that sealed the deal came on the other side of the court where Livio Jean-Charles found Hugo Invernizzi out of a desperate situation and the French guard hit the important three-point shot.
The All-Tournament has not been named directly in the arena but our predictions from yesterday were close to what came up in the end. In fact, it is probably one of the first tournaments where Nenad Miljenovic did not get a call to the All-Tournament team as the Serbian, despite having great numbers through out the 4 days at Paris (17.5ppg (61.5% 2FG 29/42 FTs), 5.5rpg, 4.8apg, 2.5spg, 25.8effpg), was not able to lead his team to the title. His spot has been taken by Hugo Invernizzi who stepped up after a poor start and was the clutch player for the French team yesterday already. His excellent performance in the Final helped him to get this totally deserved spot on the All-Tournament team. The MVP trophy went to Livio Jean-Charles who may not have had the biggest numbers but what an important piece he was for this win. The 2m02 tall forward was present in nearly every part of the game and impressed by a smart decision making and great court-vision. He can be considered as one of the most interesting potentials of the whole tournament. Nikola Jankovic represented FMP in the All-Tournament team as being one of the youngest but already so mature players of the Serbian team. Rafa Freire from Unicaja and Dovydas Redikas from Zalgiris Kaunas completed the All-Tournament Five.