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Xmas Tournament Kortrijk 2014: Day 2

December 29th, 2014 · No Comments

The 2nd day of the Xmas Tournament was marked by the direct elimination games in the Coca Cola U19 Invitational. The quarter finals were held in the morning while the evening session were based around the semi-finals of the event.

With the temperatures dropping in Vlanderen, there could not have been a more adapted matchup to start the day than Northfield Mount Hermon and Namika Lahti. The Finns tried to play the Americans face-to-face but poor refereeing prevented them to stay close. However, little big man Juha-Matti Henttonen kept them in the game by making some threes and bringing the American big guys out of the paint. But three triples in a row by Aaron Falzon gave NMH a 15 point lead in the second quarter while the Finns were called for several travels in a row. The gap went up to 19 points at halftime and it looked like everything was decided at that moment.The second half did not bring anything new so that NMH qualified for the semi-finals and look like the tournament favorites.

The Belgrade selection looked a lot more ready for this game than Ludwigsburg. Under the impulse of Slobodan Jovanovic and by dominating the boards, the Serbs ran away to a 19-0 lead before the Germans could score their first basket. Simon Kutzschmar had a good scoring run for Ludwigsburg in the second quarter and they could reduce the gap to 11 points 2 minutes before the half. Kutzschmar even added another triple but it was Bratislav Jekovic who made his third three-pointer on the halftime buzzer to bring the difference back to 13 points. Belgrade wanted to make everything clear in the beginning of the second half and outplayed Ludwigsburg with a perfectly oiled passing game to get the ball to the open shooters who nailed their multiple attempts. Ludwigsburg completely lost its game and just jacked up bad shots so that the game was over after 25 minutes.

The quarter final between the Antwerp U19 team and the Belgian U18 National Team was quite balanced in the first quarter. Thomas Akyazili and Ordane Kanda were the main offensive weapons for the Giants while Niels Foerts broke the Antwerp defense on a regular basis with his drives. The second quarter remained tight and while Kanda had three fouls, it was Mattias Palinckx who scored a few buckets for Antwerp as lonely inside player for both teams. Both teams traded baskets and 98 born Darnell Snyers showed some promising things for Belgium. Antwerp created a lead in the third quarter by playing better defense than in the first half and getting some easy baskets on the fast break. The U18 National Team was overmatched physically and could not reduce the gap significantly enough to have a chance to win this game.

GBA had the better start into the game between the two Czech participants of the tournament. Driven by Ervins Meznieks and a good defensive effort, USK was unable to compete with their opponents in the beginning of the game. 1997 born Ondrej Sehnal organized the game well for the Future Stars but his team mates did not transform his passes into baskets. GBA continued their defensive effort keeping everything away for USK so that they cruised to an easy win in the quarterfinals.

Antwerp  – Northfield Mount Herman 81-79

Antwerp came out well from the starting blocks as NMH missed some good opportunities in the paint or from the charity stripe. Kanda and Akyazili were present on the fast break and the Belgians were up 15-3 after 4 minutes. Akyazili liked the challenge and knocked down a couple of shots while the team defense was there to close the paint. Everybody made his contribution for the Giants but they needed a first time out when the NMH press defense adjusted and the Americans had a 5-0 run after some bad decision by their opponents. However the guys around Akyazili took back the control of the game and forced a lot of US turnovers. Even if their shots were not falling anymore, Antwerp had the game under control being up around 20 points. Falzon was the only player for Northfield to be able to put the ball in the basket so that the Giants went to the halftime break with a 46-31 lead.

Northfield started the third quarter with an improved defense giving them lots of points on the fast break and they brought the difference back under 10 points. After a timeout Akyazli answered with a triple and a great assist for a quick 5-0 run. NMH was not impressed though and scored a 5-0 on their side. The teams traded some baskets and Antwerp even had the chance to go back to the 20 point advantage on several good defenses. The small and energetic Marius Mwendanga made some big shots and put good pressure on the half court defense so that Antwerp was up 66-50 before the last ten minutes. Northfield had again the better start into the quarter slowly reducing the gap to 10 points on some good plays by Falzon. The Antwerp offense stalled and NMH came back to 66-60 with 7 minutes to go. The Belgian players were tired and more and more decisions were questionable on offense. With 5 minutes to play, the difference was only 2 points and it looked like the favorites were taking over. AJ Brodeur tied the game but then Akyazili reappeared with 5 points in a row to give Antwerp the lead again. The game was on the line now but NMH could not score. Akyazili however had the and1- in the fast break to go up by 2 again. The US school tied the game, Kanda turned it over on the last play and NMH missed the game winning layup. However, the referees called a lose ball foul on the rebound plus a 2nd technical to the American coach so that Antwerp advanced to the final by making two out of their three free—throws. What a terrible ending to a great game.

Belgrade – GBA Prague 80-73

After the drama, the calm came back for the second semi-final between GBA Prague and Belgrade. The Serbian team needed a few minutes to run away from GBA and they were up 17-9 after seven minutes. Belgrade had everyone involved in the offense and scored multiple plays with the foul to increase their lead. Meznieks and David Pekarek were not that present on the offensive end for the Czechs so that the score at the first break was 28-16 in favor of the team from the Balkan. The second quarter started more balanced as the Czech defense was more present with their giant Denis Bosak in the middle. Milos Jovic stepped up for GBA with a couple of good plays and Belgrade needed a timout with 4 minutes to play in the second quarter. However, the Serbians found their rhythm back and ran away with tight defense to a 48-29 lead at halftime.

GBA started well into the second half and could reduce the gap to 10 on a nice pull up jumper and a fast break by Pekarek. The difference remained around the 10 point mark and it was Jovic who was leading GBA on the offensive end while Jovan Andjelkovic could not find his big guys well on the drive. Jovic though got a surprising fifth foul that was a major hit for the Czech academy but Michal Weiss continued to play well and score from the post. But Bratislav Jekovic answered with a three ball to bring the score to 60-49 before the last ten minutes. Jovanovic scored a nice three to open the quarter but Pekarek answered from behind the line. Jovanovic was not happy about that and crossed his defender badly to go for a second triple in the first minute. But GBA did not give up and came up with another one from behind the arc so that the difference was still 11 points after 2 and a half minutes. Pekarek was able to bring the score below ten on a great steal and score on the break. It was him that forced a Serbian timeout with 4 minutes to go when he scored the three ball in transition to bring the score to 72-68. The guard added another one and we had a close one. Jovanovic though grabbed a tough offensive rebound and set up a basket to go back up by 3 points. Andjelkovic remained calm from the line and brought Belgrade up by 5 with 9 seconds to go. GBA could not find a basket on the inbound play and Belgrade advanced to the Final.

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