MACEDONIA BEATS GERMANY
A big second half run enabled Macedonia to write their first win in the Qualifying Round 86-75 over Germany on the second day of action in Group E in Bydgoszcz.
Macedonia now stand on a 1-3 record, tied with Germany, as both teams still hold a chance to make it to the Quarter-Finals.
Vrbica Stefanov is one of the oldest players in the tournament and one of the most effective, with 25 points on Sunday.
A tied game in the first half saw a much better Macedonia team in the second half who took over the floor on the way to their second ever EuroBasket Final Round win.
"He's probably the best player in his age right now in Europe," said Germany's Coach Dirk Bauermann on Vrbica Stefanov who led Macedonia to the big win.
The veteran point guard scored 25 points on 73% shooting from the field and added five steals, which are the second best individual highs in the tournament thus far.
Jeremiah Massey added 16 while Pero Antic and Dime Tasovski had 13 each.
Tasovski had five steals too and hit three times from distance, to write his tournament high right in the key game for his team.
It was a 20-4 run late in the third and early in the fourth that pushed Macedonia from a one point lead to a 67-50 margin in the 31st minute.
"We played better defense for 20-25 minutes and when we started to shoot good as well we opened a gap to decide the game," commented Coach Jovica Arsic.
Macedonia scored only a single bucket inside the arc the entire first quarter but had four three-pointers to rely on and hold an 18-14 margin after ten minutes, behind ten early points by Vrbica Stefanov. Gecevski attacked the rim with efficiency and created a headache for Coach Bauermann but his team still couldn't gather enough points for a run.
Macedonia earned their biggest lead, 47-40 with a big dunk by Massey but Staiger was still on fire and hit again from distance only to see Jagla follow him and cut the margin to one.
A time out called by Coach Arsic changed things in favor of his team.
Two steals in a row by Macedonia capped by a buzzer beater catch and shoot by Pero Antic set the margin on 12 at the end of the third quarter, 62-50 behind a 15-4 run in which four players scored.
If Germany had any plans to come back they were shattered quickly inside the fourth with three additional turnovers, which allowed Macedonia to push it to a 17 point lead, and decide the night.
"We had a tough loss two days ago but just like it happened with our tough loss to Greece and then the win over Israel we recovered quickly," analyzed Tasovski.
"Now we need to beat Russia and make it to the Quarter-Finals."
Macedonia wrote 14 steals on the night against only four of Germany. Stefanov himself had more than the entire German team. Those extra possessions and easy fast break points made the difference.
Vrbica Stefanov of Macedonia saved his best performance for the most important game, and won't rest until he helps his team make more history. He finished a huge game with 25 points on 73% shooting from the field and five steals - the second best individual high in the entire tournament. Stefanov scored ten points already in the first quarter and added eight in the third to bring his team 40 minutes from the quarter-finals.