Beaverton, ORE – Friday night at the Nike Global Challenge, a scrappy Serbian youth team held on to win by a one-point margin. The second annual event featured three USA squads featuring some of the best players in the country against five international teams made up of guys who are (about) 19 & Under.
The Serbians scored a huge upset over an American team that featured Punks John Wall, Michael Gilchrist and Daniel Orton. With the loss, the event’s best American team gave up its hopes of winning the three-day tournament.
The native ballers got off to a quick start.
Dressed in fresh Nike threads, they enjoyed an 11-point lead against a team of foreigners that never played like they were out of the game. The steady play of Serbian pint-sized-pg Filip Covic brought out the best in his teammates. Although Covic had 7 turnovers to his 6 assists, he ran sharp plays to free up his teammate Nikola Markovic, who led FMP-Serbia with 17 points, 13 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists.
Although FMP-Serbia was the only team wearing Adidas (contractual restrictions), they certainly came out and just did it. Having won the Euroleague in the 18 & Under division, FMP Serbia added and subtracted a few payers from that roster to create their player pool that defeated USA (or “USA 3,” considering there are three American teams playing in this years Global Challenge) last night. FMP-Serbia played organized and dealt with their frustrations during the game like family. Their post game victory huddle at half-court, which included two coaches, was pretty inspiring. It may not have been the Olympics, but you couldn’t tell FMP-Serbia that.
Prize-prep John Wall used his speed and scoring savvy to do what he could for the Americans while netting 18 points, but DeShaun Thomas of Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana had the strongest showing for his version of the U.S. team. Thomas, a 6-6-wing player, had 22 points and 6 rebounds, while Gary Franklin Jr. finished with 12 points and 8 boards. Oklahoma City’s Daniel Orton was relatively absent in his 22 minutes on the floor. The 6-8-Senior finished with 4 points, 6 boards and 2 blocks.
Although the game was tied at 37-all at the half, USA 3 maintained a decent lead throughout most of the second half. However, as the USA tried to go on cruise control, they began committing the turnovers that gave the Serbians a final window of opportunity. With 1:20 to go in the 4th quarter, Serbian power forward Milojko Vasilic added a low-percentage bucket to bring his team to being down won. With 43 seconds remaining, FMP-Serbia took a 1-point lead.
While the U.S. had a series of opportunities to regain the lead, the Serb’s above average team defense kept their advantage safe.
OTHER NOTES: In the day’s first game, USA 1 defeated Senegal, who didn’t say die either, 81-68. Demarcus Cousins finished with 23 points including 3 threes and 5 boards. Senegal’s Byago Diouf, a 6-2 guard, totaled 22 points and 5 boards for his team…Lithuania failed to get by Canada, as Marvin Binney (15 points, 3 rebounds) and Alwayne Bigby (14 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals) lead the way in a 83-78 victory over Lithuania. Mindauga Kuzminskas lead his team with 24 points.