Crvena Zvezda Telekom won its third consecutive Belgrade NIJT title! Tournament host Zvezda defeated Mega Vizura 88-56 in the Belgrade derby final game on Sunday in Zeleznik, and has automatically qualified for its third consecutive final round appearance that will take place parallel with the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four weekend in May. Zvezda dominated en rout to another NIJT title, winning all five games by a combined margin of 182 points. In the finals, the hosts built a double-digit lead in the first quarter with couple of triples from Marko Guduric, before extending the margin to 20 points behind the play of Dusan Ristic who was later named the tournament MVP. After holding 46-26 halftime lead, Zvezda cruised to victory and another NIJT title. Ristic led with 21 points plus 7 rebounds, while Nikola Rebic scored 17 and was also voted into the all-tournament team. Guduric and Marko Tejic each finished with 15 points in victory. For Mega Vizura, all-tournament team member Nikola Jokic scored 18, Rade Zagorac had 13 and Andrija Simovic scored 10. Zvezda now joins the hosts Team England’s U18 national team, and the three previous NIJT tournament winners – the defending champs Lietuvos Rytas of Lithuania, winner of the Siauliai Nike International Junior Tournament; KK Spars Sarajevo of Bosnia-Herzegovina, winner of the Torneo Citta di Roma; and FIATC Joventut Badalona of Spain, winner of the Ciutat de L'Hospitalet tourney – at the eight-team tournament to crown a European junior champion from May 9 to 12 in London, UK.
Even though it lost an important starter Brano Djukanovic to injury midway through the first quarter, Zvezda still took control of the game with an aggressive defensive pressure and with couple of triples from Guduric for 17-9. Mega relied on outside shooting from Zagorac and Ognjen Jaramaz, but Djordje Kaplanovic beat the first quarter buzzer with a baseline floater, and Ristic started dominating inside extended the lead to 27-12 at the start of the second quarter. Jokic tried to get Mega going inside, and team turned to its zone defense to disrupt the hosts’ rhythm, but three-pointers from Petar Vorkapic and Vuk Jovanovic helped Zvezda make a 23-point margin before settling for 46-26 halftime score.
There was no stopping for Zvezda or Ristic in the third quarter, either. After Nikola Rebic sunk a triple, the big man scored 8 quick points for 59-32. With game clearly getting out of reach, Zagorac sunk a three-pointer and made a coast-to-coast layup, sparking a 2-7 run, while Ristic got in the foul trouble committing its fourth personal foul. However, Vorkapic and Kaplanovic scored inside and Rebic made a fastbreak layup for 71-44 after three quarters. With intensity and tempo slowing down, Zvezda did not allow any letdowns and cruised to a title-worthy victory. Milenko Veljkovic and Zagorac scored buckets for Mega, but before game’s end, Guduric and Tejic ignited the crowed with fastbreak slam-dunks to close it out.
Sunday, February 24, 2013