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FIBA U19 World Championship: the Finals

July 10th, 2011 · No Comments

The last day of the FIBA U19 World Championships in Riga has arrived with the big final between Lithuania and Serbia. Thousands of fans were expected to invade the Arena today but there were some other games before the showdown of the two European basketball powerhouses.

The first game of the day saw Croatia taking on Poland in a pleasing contest where both teams put the focus on offense in the first half. Przemyslaw Karnowski and Michal Michalak assured the scoring for the Poles while Dario Saric played really well for the Croats not turning it over too much and hitting his shots. In the second half, Poland insisted on the superiority of Karnowski in the paint and could generate a 10 point lead that they managed to hold until the end of the game. It was a good test for both teams that face each other in 10 days during the U18 European Championship in Poland.

In the second contest of the day, the United States had to play against Australia in a nearly pure NCAA match-up. The Emus came out with their usual energy level that helped them to put the US in problems during the first half. Behind the once again great shooting of Hugh Greenwood, the Australians went up 43-39 at half in a really energetic game. The third quarter got even more physical and had the Australians running away a bit further. But a hard unsportsmanlike foul and two missed FT by Greenwood out of it stopped their run and the US could come back and take the lead. In the final minutes of the game, the lead changed several times but the last shot attempt by Greenwood ended with an airball and the USA could finish 5th.

Argentina – Russia 72-77

A quick start by Russia with 4 points forced the Argentinean coach to take a timeout after only 2 minutes in the game. It helped as the South Americans could catch up the lead and tie the game at 7. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the first quarter with Pablo Perez hitting two consecutive threes for Argentina and Dmitry Kulagin answering in the paint. Argentina started better into the 2nd quarter behind another triple of Perez and finding their players in the paint. For some reason, the flow of the Argentinean game evaporated and they gave Russia the possibility to come back through several bad choices on offense. Juanjo Giaveno found the right solution though by hitting the big three point shot on the defense. Luciano Massarelli hit the difficult jumper from mid range but Kulagin had another one of his own with the running buzzer beater from nearly mid-court. But Argentina was still up though with 5 points at halftime.

Argentina continued to hit their three-point shots (7/12) in the beginning of the second half while the Russians worked hard on the offensive glass to get some second chances. But the South-American sharpness from behind the arc was great so that they could walk away to a 11 point lead with 5 minutes on the clock in the third quarter. Russia scored 6 points out of the break with Aleksandr Gudumak appearing in the paint. Kulagin added one of his typical direction-changing drives to reduce the gap to only 3 points in the final minute of Q3. The shooting stroke seemed to have left Argentina in the beginning of the last 10 minutes and the usual suspect Vladislav Trushkin appeared with a long-distance bomb of his own. Marcos Delia was not finding the basket in this game which was a huge factor for the Gauchos as he was more or less the only inside scoring option. Gudumak hit the three to start the decisive phase and Kulagin stole a ball on defense to start the fast break that gave Russia a 2 point lead with 3 minutes on the clock. Despite Russia going to +5, Giaveno split once again the whole defense to score with the foul and keep the game close. This was answered by Kulagin with a three-pointer from the top of the key. But Argentina did the same with the hard triple from the corner by Franco Giorgetti. Kulagin missed the three against Delia instead of taking the drive but Giaveno could not tie the game from the FT line afterwards by making only one. Russia found Kulagin in the low post but he missed his shot that was however rebounded by a team mate which sent Trushkin to the line. The forward made both and his team was up 3 with 21 seconds to go. Argentina chose to go for the two pointer and send Russia to the free-throw line again. Sergey Karasev hit both attempts and Giaveno missed his drive which was more or less the decision. Kulagin sealed the deal from the line and Russia could take home the Bronze Medal.

MVP: Dmitry Kulagin 24pts (10/20 FGs), 8rebs, 4asts, 30eff

Serbia – Lithuania 67-85

In a terrific atmosphere, the Final started not that well for the hosts Lithuania as they could not find positions inside so Jonas Valanciunas opened the score board for them with a baseline jump-shot. Serbia tried to go to the boards over Nemanja Besovic in order to give fouls to Valanciunas but that did not work in the beginning. Aleksandar Cvetkovic got the defensive treatment by Dovydas Redikas which was a tough one for him as he could not barely get any touches in the beginning. Edgaras Ulanovas helped to give some additional scoring as the green offense saw only the first point by somebody else than Ulanovas and Valanciunas after 8 minutes. But Cvetkovic could escape several times the defense of Redikas to keep the score close. Redikas scored the incredible layup with the foul to give his team a 18-13 lead after the first 10 minutes.

Valanciunas immediately came up strong with a big dunk after the Pick and Roll and a post-move so that Lithuania had the first significant break of the game at 22-13. With Bogic Vujosevic running the point, Serbia reduced the gap by scoring a 6-2 run as they tried to match the length of Valanciunas with their more athletic options Luka Mitrovic and Nikola Siladi. The referees were looking very close to every contact which made that both teams shot a lot of free-throws during this phase of the contest. In this game, Lithuania was a bit more effective as they could put the lead back to +7. Siladi scored an important triple in one of the few non-hacked plays and Vujosevic scoring the +1 on the tough drive forced the Lithuanian coach to take a timeout with 2min30 on the clock. The Serbian PG held Vytenis Cizauskas nicely in front of him which gave him the possibility to find Djordje Drenovac in the corner for the triple. The answer came with a three-point shot from Deividas Pukis that gave the Greens a 6 point lead again. Gujanicic only scored one from the FT line and Cizauskas hit the mid-range buzzer to go to the halftime at 39-32 for Lithuania.

Bogdan Bogdanovic had a good start and found Besovic in the paint who could score against Valaciunas to reduce the gap again. Pukis hit his second three-pointer of the game but the Serbs found an answer in the paint with Drenovac. Bogdanovic hit the drive with the foul and it were only 2 points of difference with 5 minutes on the clock. Vujosevic hit the short mid-range jumper to tie the score but this was followed by two free-throws of Valanciunas and a T on Siladi. With 5 points up, Lithuania tried some zone defense for some moments that forced Serbian turnovers that could not been used though on the fast break. Cizauskas came up with a big play stealing the ball in the passing lane and finishing on the other side on the break against Siladi with the foul. Serbia’s offense was not turning well and Lithuania used these errors with some nice plays on the fast break to go up with double digits for the first time in the game at 58-47. After another bad choice on offense and a U called on the break, Lithuania increased the lead even to 62-47 at the end of the third quarter.

Serbia started the fourth quarter with a three-pointer and a forced 5 seconds violation that they could however not score out of that. From that moment on, it went again all in favor of Lithuania and the reached a 17 point lead with 8 minutes to go in the game. Valanciunas slammed a big one out of the dribble over the Serbian defense showing who should win this game. Cvetkovic hit a three-pointer off the glass to keep the hope alive and the gap below 15. But another Valanciunas dunk forced the Serbian coach to use his last time-out at –18 with 4min30 on the clock. It did not help anymore and the last minutes were just for the gallery with Lithuania bringing home the Gold Medal.

MVP: Jonas Valanciunas 36pts (13/18 2FGs – 10/14 FTs), 8rebs, 3stls, 3blks, 46eff

All-Tournament Team

PG – Aleksandar Cvetkovic (Serbia)

SG – Dmitry Kulagin (Russia)

SF – Hugh Greenwood (Australia)

PF – Jeremy Lamb (USA)

C – Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania) MVP

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