Sofia, Bulgaria – The last day of the U16 FIBA European Challengers in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia was opened by the teams of Slovakia and Switzerland. Slovakia controlled the game, having the lead throughout the whole game in the 77-66 win. Both Lubomir Urban and Maros Simko scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the win. For Switzerland, Matteo Da Silva (2006), a 5-9 guard scored a game-high 26 points in a losing effort, while his teammate Liban Nuux added 14 points, seven boards, four assists and seven steals, but also committed seven turnovers.
In a hard-fought game for third place of the U16 FIBA European Challenger 19-25 (Groups D-E) that was accompanied by several technical and unsportsmanlike fouls (head coach of Ukraine was ejected in the second quarter) Portugal prevailed over Ukraine – 62-55. The committed turnovers seemed to be the deciding metric in this game. Ukraine turned the ball over 25 times, against Portugal’s 11. Portugal exploited those mistakes, with a 22-11 advantage on points from turnovers. Ruben Prey had another impressive performance, finishing with 19 points, 17 rebounds and eight blocked shots, intimidating his opponents within the paint. His teammates Tiago Filipe (2005), a 6-7 forward and Nathan Noronha helped by scoring 12 and 11, respectively. For Ukraine, Nazarii Kulishenko put up a double-double of 14 points and 18 rebounds but shot only 6-of-18 from the field.
Poland upset an athletic Germany 75-66 to clinch the title at the event and secure U17 World Cup spot next year. Once again, the committed turnovers were the important stat for the win. Germany committed 31 turnovers, against Poland’s 15. The Polish players’ tenacity on defense forced Germans to lose the ball 14 times, against Poland’s eight. Szymon Nowicki led the winners in scoring with 24 points and 11 rebounds, connecting on 4-of-10 from long range. His teammate Pawel Sowinski added 14 points, going 5-of-12 from the field. Martin Kalu scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed eight boards for Germany, but shot only 2-of-8 from deep. Joshua Bonga had an inefficient night from a playmaking standpoint, finishing with 17 points, one assist and nine turnovers.
Latvia won the battle of the winless teams of the event, topping Bulgaria – 72-65. Bulgaria stayed close, even leading for close to a total of 13 minutes throughout the game. As against Poland, the Bulgarians didn’t have any size disadvantage which let them to be more active on the boards and play more effectively around the rim. The Latvians were more aggressive on the defensive end of the floor, coming up with ten more steals – 12-2, while also forcing Bulgaria into commit more turnovers – 18 against 11. Toms Linis (2005), a 6-5 swingman led Latvia in scoring with 14 points, shooting 3-of-9 from long range. Juris Vitols had a solid all-around game, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals, while his teammate Harijs Kaupmanis (2005), a 6-6 forward added 13 points, four boards, three assists, two steals and a block, being aggressive on defense and efficient on offense, converting on 3-of-7 from deep. For Bulgaria, Aleksandar Gavalyugov scored a game-high 18 points, adding four rebounds and five assists to his stat sheet. His teammate Stefan Mihaylov recorded 12 points, shooting 2-of-6 from long distance, and grabbed six boards.
In a down-to-the-wire game Hungary sealed the first place at the U16 FIBA European Challenger 19-25 (Groups D-E), winning against Georgia – 75-72. Balint Szoke had another strong showing, finishing with a game-high 20 points, six rebounds and six dimes, shooting 4-of-8 from deep. For Georgia, Luka Lomtadze, a 2005-frontcourt player demonstrated a lot of effort on the glass, recording 16 points and nine rebounds. The leading scorer of Georgia throughout the event, Luka Alavidze had a rare off-night that came at the worst time possible. Alavidze recorded five points, shooting 1-of-4 from the field, adding two assists and committing six turnovers.
Martin Kalu from Germany was named the most valuable player of the U16 FIBA European Challenger, averaging 27.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game in close to 29 minutes of action. The most valuable player of the U16 FIBA European Challenger 19-25 (Groups D-E) was Luka Alavidze from Georgia, averaging 16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists.