Sofia, Bulgaria – Ukraine dominated against Switzerland in the first game of the program for Day 3 at the U16 European Challengers in Sofia. Ukraine had a clear size advantage over its opponent, as the average height of the Ukrainians is 6-6, while that of Swiss players is only 6-2. Ukraine controlled the boards and scored 18 points more from second chance points than its opponent. Artem Danych (2005), a 6-foot-1 guard led the winners in scoring with 21 points, hitting 3-of-8 from long range, while Nazarii Kulishenko (2005), a 6-foot-10 forward added 18 points, 13 boards and four assists for the win. For Switzerland, Liban Nuux recorded 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
In the next game from the program, Poland made a huge comeback in the second half to beat Latvia 79-69. They trailed by 11 at the half, but had a 26-13 edge in the third quarter and kept the momentum in the last ten minutes of the game. Poland scored 22 more points off fast breaks than Latvia (33-11). The easy points on fast breaks for Poland came in thanks to team’s toughness, aggressiveness and resilience on defense, forcing Latvia to commit 15 turnovers more (29-14) and having 11 steals more than Latvia (18-7). Szymon Nowicki had another strong performance at the event, leading his team in scoring with 17 points, shooting 7-of-16, adding nine rebounds. For Poland, Juris Vitols (2005), a 6-foot-2 point guard stepped up, finishing with 13 points, 15 boards and eight assists.
In the third game of the program, Cyprus upset Slovakia – 65-61, despite trailing by 13 points after 20 minutes of play. Christoforos Malathoura (2005), a classic 6-9 center, led the winners in scoring with 20 points and seven boards, shooting 9-of-16. Stefanos Tigkas recorded another solid showing, finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds, hitting some deciding free-throw shots in clutch time. For Slovakia Lubomir Urban (2005), a 6-foot-3 guard had 19 points and six boards, shooting 5-of-11 from long distance, while his teammate Maros Simko (2005), a 6-foot-7 forward recorded 11 points and ten rebounds.
In the next game of the schedule Croatia faced Bulgaria in a packed gym. The Croatians patiently controlled the game from its beginning, building up their lead methodically to eventually win 78-63. They had a serious advantage on the boards, grabbing 10 offensive rebounds more than Bulgaria (17-7), turning them into 12 second chance points more than its opponent. For third straight game David Pavin was the leading scorer for Croatia, this time with 21 points, shooting 8-of-16 from the field, adding five rebounds and eight assists. His teammates Roko Lukic (2005) and Luka Francesevic (2005) both helped with 11 points for the win. Francesevic organized more of the Croatian offensive plays, while Lukic, a tall and athletic swingman, put a lot of effort both ways, finishing with a couple of blocked shots and steals. For Bulgaria, Aleksandar Gavalyugov recorded 15 points and seven boards, shooting 6-of-14 from the field, including 2-of-9 from deep, while Stanislav Hinkov, a 2006-born shooting guard scored 14 points, going 2-of-5 from long range, being also active on the glass, securing six rebounds.
In a low-scoring game Georgia managed to upset Hungary 61-51. Luka Alavidze had a game-high 24 points, shooting 9-of-18 from the field and added seven rebounds and four assists for the win. Daniel Antalics, a 6-foot-7 frontcourt player scored 14 points and grabbed six boards in a losing effort.
On Thursday there will be no games as the teams will rest and the event will resume on Friday, starting with a game between Switzerland and Cyprus. Then at Triaditsa Sports Hall, Croatia will face Germany in a direct contest for the front place in that group, while at Saint George School Gym Portugal and Hungary will open the semi-finals. Meanwhile at the other gym Poland will face the hosts from Bulgaria. Day 4 will be closed by the second semi-finals game between the teams of Georgia and Ukraine.