The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) put together a countdown of the top 10 plays of the recent EuroBasket qualifier "bubble", with two plays from the Estonian national team placed on the list.
According to FIBA, the fifth best play of the recent EuroBasket qualifiers was an alley-oop from Estonian point guard Rait-Riivo Laane to Janari Jõesaar. With 0.8 seconds left on the shot clock, Laane lobbed up an inbound pass, which Jõesaar grabbed with two hands, putting it down over a Russian defender.
The second-best play of the recent games was Maik-Kalev Kotsar's driving dunk against North Macedonia. Kotsar, a big man with good mobility, took upon himself to drive from the top of the key to finish with a left-handed tomahawk over the defender for an and-one opportunity.
Estonia defeated Italy in overtime in the recent qualifier stage, then lost to Russia and North Macedonia. While the young Estonia team was not able to finish off the stage with a victory over North Macedonia, Estonia advanced to the EuroBasket 2022 main tournament on point difference.
A loss and a victory all in one game
Estonia held a 49:38 lead at half over North Macedonia, but allowed the opponent, playing for their tournament, to get back into the game. With five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Estonia's lead had dwindled down to four points. They extended their lead with an 11:5 run after that, but the game went into the fourth quarter with the Estonians holding a 69:63 lead.
The game got very competitive in the final quarter with both teams playing to advance to the main tournament. The Estonian national team held a one-point lead two minutes and 19 seconds before the end of the game, after which Macedonia took a lead. Estonia then responded by taking an 84:81 lead, but two free throws from Jacob Wiley brought the opponent to within one. Nenad Dimitrijevikj was accurate from long distance just seven seconds before the end of the game to give North Macedonia an 86:84 victory.
In what is an unusual occurence, the Estonian national team began celebrating their loss immediately after the match end. A two-point loss still meant Estonia would advance, as even though they were tied with North Macedonia in group stage points, Estonia still won on total point difference. A nine-point loss would have sent North Macedonia through to the main tournament instead.
Estonia's high point man was Maik-Kalev Kotsar, who was on a hot streak. Kristian Kullamäe and Kaspar Treier added 14 points and Sten Sokk put in 13 of his own. The clutch hero for North Macedonia, Nenad Dimitrijevikj, scored 23 points in the victory.
Italy and Russia also advanced from Estonia's Group B.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste