After a first day in Riga with several surprises, we were back in the Arena to follow the semi-finals day of the FIBA U19 World Championships. As the quarter-finals gave us a few surprises, we were looking forward to see if Argentina can upset another one and eventually reach the final and if the favorites from Lithuania continue their domination.
The first game that we could follow was the game for the 9th place between Brazil and Latvia. The South-Americans took this one home behind the 19pts of Davi Rossetto while Lucas Nogueira had 8pts, 10rebs, 2asts and 2blks (he had more goal-tendings than blocks). On the Latvian side, Edmunds Dukulis had 17pts and 6rebs while Davis Bertans scored 25 at correct shooting percentages.
Poland played their opening game of the 5-8th place matches without Mateusz Ponitka who sat out after his injury problems from yesterday. And even if Poland did not start too bad, the United States took over the lead quickly as the organizers of the U18 European Championship decided to rotate a lot give minutes to everybody. At the half, the US were up 36-21. The second half was nothing more than an accumulation of highlights by the US who brought the game home without any problem.
Australia had to play against a Croatian team that was missing Toni Katic after his injury from the Quarter-Final. While during the first quarter, both teams were playing with good intensity and remained close in the score, Australia took the lead in the second 10 minutes as the Croats started to miss a couple of shots. But the team from the Balkan did not give up and showed the necessary will to have a chance to win this game. Australia saved a 5 point lead into the halftime. During the third quarter, the Croats stayed in the game because of the good shooting by Boris Barac and Dario Saric continuing to create opportunities for his team mates. Australia executed their game very well against an opponent where this works at perfection and the guys from down-under went with a 9 point advantage to the last quarter. But during the last ten minutes, the Croatians gave it up and Australia finished with a 27 point lead.
Lithuania – Russia 85-68
Both teams started very slow into the game with the Russian milking the clock like yesterday and relying on the outside shots. Dmitry Kulagin hit the first one but not much came directly after. Lithuania tried some outside options as well before going inside to Jonas Valanciunas who got doubled on every possession. As the Russians struggled to find scores, Lithuania could run the break and found some open shots from behind the arc that gave them a first break at 10-5. Despite a Russian time-out, the score went to 17-5 as the Greens made their open shots and Valanciunas together with Rolandas Jakstas dominated in the paint. Kulagin was the only one who could score against the Lithuanian defense and Valanciunas started to beast on the offensive glass to give his team a 25-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter started with a total Lithuanian show as the players around Valanciunas gave the Russians no chance whatsoever to score. The Lithuanian big even had the time to bring up the ball twice and go for the behind the back dribble to avoid the defense. Alexander Tikhonin put some points on the board for Russia but it was not really enough to bring the game to a score where his team could expect much for the second half as they went to the break at 53-26.
The second half saw a short run by the Russians as Kulagin continued to score with great baskets against the Lithuanian defense. The guard had 22 points with 24 minutes in the game while his team managed to have only 35 in total at that moment. Together with Tikhonin, the top scorer could bring the score back to under –20 at the 3 minute mark in the 3rd quarter. The Lithuanian offense showed some problems against the 2-3 zone that Russia put on the court at that moment and there was still a slight hope before the last ten minutes that Kulagin could bring his team back. The Lithuanian shooters continued to miss their outside shots and they could not find Valanciunas in the paint where Tikhonin was doing an excellent job as the last man in the zone. Sergey Karasev hit the three pointer to bring the score back to –15. Another Russian triple, which would have brought the score back to –12 was refused then by the referees because of a called moving screen at 6min39 before the end. Even if the Reds did all they could to come back and Valanciunas having 4 fouls, the gap never became smaller than the dozen. Deividas Pukis hit the three pointer from the corner and Zygimantas Skucas scored with the foul to decide the game in the last minutes. With 1 minute on the clock, Valanciunas had his substitution and ovation by the public and Lithuania qualified for the Final on Sunday.
MVP: Jonas Valanciunas 21pts (8/10 FGs), 13rebs, 2asts, 38eff
Serbia – Argentina 76-71
Both teams had some problems to find the basket in the starting minutes but it was Argentina that took the early lead at 6-2 after five minutes. Serbia tried to go mostly inside to find Nemanja Besovic in the beginning. The 2m20 tall center scored the first 4 points for them but had to work very hard against the short but physical Argentinean defense. Aleksandar Cvetkovic who hit his first three-point shot and Bojan Bogdanovic going for the +1 gave Serbia their first lead in the game at 12-9. Patricio Garino came with his typical immediate scoring from the bench but Bogdanovic closed him down after his first 5 points. Serbia took a 2pt lead to the first break of the game. Garino stole the ball twice in the first minute of the 2nd quarter which helped the Gauchos to tie the score. Serbia went up to +5 though when Argentina came up for the first time with a press defense after a FT which immediately resulted in a turnover that was followed by yet another beautiful hook from Marcos Delia. Behind his scoring and passing, Argentina could take the lead back and forced a Serbian time-out at 26-28 with 2 minutes on the clock. Delia continued his festival of fundamentals in the low post and brought his team to a 32-28 lead at halftime.
Argentina came out of the locker room with a second triple by Franco Giorgetti but Bogic Vujosevic and Marko Gujanicic answered with three-point plays to stay in the game. Vujosevic was really good in this phase reading the defense and the offense to steal important balls for the Serbs. But Juan Giaveno took over the lead for Argentina with a really tough three-point shot that was though immediately followed by two triples from Bogdanovic. The Partizan forward continued his scoring to give Serbia the lead by Giaveno was now definitely in the game and bringing the remaining fans on the Argentinean side drawing several fouls. But the Serbians did not fall and defended their short lead of three points at the end of the third quarter. Bogdanovic looked like being the only one able to score for Serbia but got rejected by Delia who gave the South-American team the lead back with 6 minutes on the clock. Besovic played nicely on the low post to tie the game and Gujanicic hit the big three to give the lead back to Europe. Bogdanovic hit the next triple but Luciano Massarelli had the huge steal and the tough lay-up to stay in the game. Vujosevic scored two important free-throws that gave Serbia a four point lead being under the minute that Argentina could not answer anymore. Serbia reached the Final and will now face Lithuania on Sunday.
MVP: Bojan Bogdanovic 25pts (4/6 3FGs), 8rebs, 27eff