During the second day in Belgrade, the main focus was of course on the Semi-Final games but the morning started with a game that only decided which team reached the round of the Last 4. Let’s check what happened yesterday.
Union Olimpija – INSEP
Union Olimpija head coach Prokic strangely decided to start with their talented PG Luka Rupnik on the bench which was immediately used by the French team to create a gap. And this double digit difference could never be reduced by the Slovenians, even with Rupnik on the floor. They managed to make it a close game over long stretches but the French dominated in the paint where Olimpija had not athleticism to put against. William Howard had his best game of the tournament with 20pts, 8rebs, 2asts and 3stls while Rupnik only got help from Boris Bosnjak who scored 17 hard fought-points in the paint.
As the semi-finals were played at the same time, we could only follow one of them and we decided to stay in the main gym with FMP – INSEP.
Semi-Final: FMP – INSEP
The game started with both teams being close to each other. Nemanja Bezbradica dominated offensively as none of the French big guys was able to stay in front of him when he attacked the basket. Nenad Miljenovic was calmer as usual on the scoring but found his team mates very well. The main thing for FMP though was the early foul trouble of their PF Stefan Popovski. This gave the French a massive advantage in the rebounding situations which they used for having several additional scoring options. INSEP took slowly the control of the game as they had more and more second chances because of the athleticism of Yannis Morin and Livio Jean-Charles. The third quarter was then close to perfection for the French as they continued to hit their long-distance shots with Hugo Invernizzi and dominated in defense to play the fast-break. They increased their advantage to more than 10 points and everything looked like the big surprise was ahead. But who thought that it could happen got brought back to reality by Nenad Miljenovic, the referees and the incapacity of INSEP to close the game.
Miljenovic found his way to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter as the French guards could not stay in front of him anymore like they did so well in the third quarter. With Popovski back in the game and hitting two major three-point shots, it came down to the end with the game being decided in the final seconds. Miljenovic missed his only free-throw of the game (after hitting 13 in a row) with about 6 seconds left in the game. Invernizzi dribbled up the ball at –3 and it was sure that he was going for the three-point shot. FMP tried to make a foul and got the call they wanted on something that referees did not call the whole game. The French guard made the first one with +/- 3 seconds on the clock and missed the second one intentionally. The ball was tipped around several times but a the tip-in of one of the French inside players was mystically refused by the referees as it was apparently too late. We have no video evidence but it seemed clearly a valid basket from our position. It is sad that a Junior game is decided in this way instead of letting the players find a winner themselves during overtime.