|Sten Sokk and Estonia have every reason to feel pleased with result in Bulgaria despite the loss|
Bulgaria will carry a slim three-point lead over Estonia into the second leg of the EuroBasket 2015 1st Qualification Round final tie, after overturning a nine-point deficit and holding on for a 58-55 win at home on Thursday.
The low-scoring first game was highligted by nervous performances on both sides, as neither team converted more than 38 percent of their shots from the floor, shooting particularly poorly from beyond the three-point arc.
Bulgaria ultimately edged out their guests thanks to the fact they managed at least to maintain some composure at the foul line and sunk 18 of their 24 free throws, while they also controlled the boards, out-rebounding Estonia 45 to 31.
The guests however were the better side during the first half thanks to their accuracy when shooting from around the rim (Estonia finished 16-for-34 from two-point range).
They started pulling ahead in the second quarter and grabbed a 35-26 lead on Rain Veideman's 11th point on the night, with 1:14 remaining to the half-time buzzer.
From that point onwards though Bulgaria tightened the screws on defence, while searching more effectively for the open man on the offensive end.
A Branko Mirkovich triple with 4:18 left to play in the third quarter capped an amazing 18-0 run for the hosts that turned the tables around completely, giving them a 44-35 lead.
Estonia threw everything at the hosts and short-circuited them offensively the rest of the way to gradually chip away on the difference, but Bulgaria still had enough left in the tank to at least keep up their defensive intensity and held on for the win.
Kaloyan Ivanov paced the winners with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds and his twin brother Deyan chipped in with 12 points and five assists.
Veideman did not find the way to the basket in the second half and finished with 11 points, but he was still the only player to score in double digits for Estonia.