Union Olimpija Ljubljana is the second finalist of the London Nike International Junior Tournament after a 76-70 win over Barking Abbey in the second semi-finals match on Saturday afternoon in London, England. The team from Slovenia will face USK Future Stars Prague in the title game to decide which of the two will take the last ticket to the Nike International Junior Tournament which will take place during the 2010 Euroleague Final Four weekend in Paris, France. The two sides have faced each other in the Group B games and Olimpija won 71-66. The host deserve big credits for a wonderful performance and putting up a fight against a team that didn't drop a single game in the competition so far. A great effort and team play gave Barking the lead in the third quarter, but a 15-2 Olimpija run put the Slovens on top till the end. Gezim Morina was the best scorer of Olimpija with 18 points and 10 rebounds in addition to the key block to stop Barking's last effort to take over the game in the closing seconds. Jan Span and Klemen Prepelic finished with 15 points each. Rapphael Thomas-Edwards topped a list of five players in double digits for Barking Abbey with 18 points and 9 rebounds, Simeon Esprit and Teddy Okereafor scored 14 each while Jesse Chuku and Josh Johnson had 11 points each.
Barking stormed the court from tip off to take a 7-2 lead, but Prepelic and and Erjon Kastrati scored from the arc to set a 10-10 tie. Span found his rhythm and with points and assists gave his team a 17-13 lead, but that's as much as the hosts allowed, as the first quarter finished with Olimpija up just by 3 points, 21-18. Thomas-Edwards and Span dominated the game on each side and when and after Chuku scored from close and far range Barking took a 31-34 difference after 15 minutes. Span added points from the arc and a steal, but Okereafor and Esprit pushed the gap to 44-36 right on the edge of the first half. However Olimpija had other plans as Kastrati and Prepelic combined three made shots in a row from the perimeter to finish the first half with a 45-44 advantage.
Thomas-Edwards and Esprit continued to create and 5 points in a row by Johnson set the gap on 48-56, after 24 minutes. Olimpija went back to its known lethal weapon when Petrovic, Ziga Markus and Luka Grum scored from the arc to carry a 15-2 run until the third quarter buzzer, 63-58 to enter the last quarter with bigger poise. Olimpija returned to the closing minutes with more toughness on defense, as Barking continued to struggle with missed shots and turnovers, Okereafor with a half court steal and a fast break finish finally stopped the field goal drought, but Morina scored a soft mid-range shot to keep Olimpija on top 67-62 inside the last 6 minutes. Petrovic kicked out an assist Prepelic for a three points to set a 10 point gap with less than 5 minutes to play, but Barking weren't ready to give up yet. Esprit scored from the perimeter to ignite 6 points in a row by the hosts before Thomas-Edwards missed a chance to cut it to just two, only to see Prepelic hit a great floater at the other end. Okereafor cut it back to 4 with a tough jumper, and the teams entered the closing minute separated 74-70. With the ticket to the title game on the line Johnson tried to cut it to a single point game, but a huge block by Morina followed by an unsportsmanlike foul with 24 seconds on the game clock, gave Olimpija all it needed to capture the win.
Saturday, February 20, 2010