BallinEurope looks back at the best games from FIBA grade ball, from U18 through EuroBasket to the Basketball Champions League since the summer after what has proven to be an exciting spell of hoops across the board. It was always a lock to be a cracker and it really didn’t disappoint. Anyone looking to roll the dice knew they were in for a winner when Slovenia and Latvia booked their places in the quarter finals of EuroBasket 2017. Two teams with serious shooters, major star power, a unicorn, and a wunderkind, combined for the game of the tournament in Istanbul. We got buckets, we got big time plays, and we got the young gun taking over when it mattered to book Slovenia’s place in the medal rounds.
That win oddly did little for Slovenia’s odds on online sport betting sites as their reward was a clash with Spain. It proved to be another classic in a rather different manner. The underdogs ran with the overwhelming favourites for gold and kept running with them. Then, at the point in the game where Spain usually take over, Slovenia went for the jugular. It was a merciless beat down as David stomped all over Goliath to ensure a first ever medal for the basketball mad nation of just 2 million people.
The final, against Serbia, would see Slovenia take gold and prove an exciting encounter in its own right but it paled in comparison to the two previous games for the eventual champions. In a tournament crying out for classics, Slovenia were the reliable source.
At a wholly different level, Ireland hosted a couple of absolute crackers in the FIBA U18 women’s B division in August. The two standout games both featured the host nation, who were looking to get a team into a European A division for the first time ever. The quarter final against Israel was a tense affair which turned, oddly, at the point where the PA played Shipping Up to Boston by the Dropkick Murphys. As unconventional as inspirations go, the rabid crowd was even louder a night later when Ireland played Poland in a win and get promoted game. What proved to be a nail biter from the off ended with the miracle complete for Ireland as a spot in the final, and with it a first ever promotion, was secured. Germany would eventually claim the crown with a comfortable win over Ireland in the final.
Finally we turn to the Basketball Champions League. While the regular season has delivered its share of solid encounters, we turn to the final qualifying round for the real belters. Nanterre came into the third round as reigning champions of the FIBA Europe Cup but there was nothing to separate the French club and Tsmoki Minsk after their first leg. It took a tight and nervy 80-75 win in the second leg to lock up a place in the regular season. The same phase saw a brutal battle between Telenet Giants Antwerp and Poland’s Rosa Radom, with the Polish club battling back from a 75-69 first leg defeat to take the second 83-70 and with it a place in the group phase.