Having arrived in Kaunas yesterday late, it has been a full basketball day today in the legendary Steponas Darius and Stasys Girenas Hall, the oldest basketball arena in Europe for the U16 European Championship of Division A 2009.
- The first game of the day opposed France and Croatia and the Croats did not wait long to decide this game. The shooting of Matej Buovac killed the French defense that was nowhere to be found during long stretches. And while on the offensive end, nothing was going right either, the game was decided after one quarter and a half. Buovac scored 20 in the first 20 minutes going 4/6 from behind the three point line while top talent Dario Saric displayed his skills without being effective though. For France, the entrance of Yannis Morin was encouraging but an injury after a Croat elbow kicked him out of the game at the beginning of the second half. A second half that has nothing to talk about as the game was already over and both teams just finished their job over the 20 minutes.
- The game between Russia and Turkey was of a better level than the opener. Both teams had semi-final potential but lost during the quarter finals. During the first half, the Russians were lead by their forward duo Gleb Goldyrev and Sergey Karasev that scored mainly from outside. But the Turkish team remained in the game thorough the lucky punch of Erbil Eroglu who hit two major three pointers. The second half started with yet some other threes by Eroglu and the injury of Goldyrev may have been decisive in favor of Turkey. But Russia took over the game from that moment on behind the efforts of Vladislav Trushkin and Andrey Loginov who started to use the passes he got in the paint at best. Burak Yildizli continued to score for Turkey and the long minutes for the only 14 year old top talent Kenan Sepahi on the point did not help.
- The first semi-final was the matchup between Poland and the hosts from Lithuania. Poland started the game well behind 5 quick points from Piotr Niedzwiedzki to get an early lead at 9-2. But the Lithuanian fought back in the game when their outside shooters started to hit. Top-scorer Tauras Jogela had a rough start in the game but the supporting cast Mantas Mockevicius and the surprising Martynas Paliukenas gave Lithuania the lead back at half. Poland found their outside threat Michal Michalak several times so that the game was still undecided after 20 minutes. Jogela opened the second half with a very tough lay-in and showed the way the Lithuanians had to go. And the other guards followed him with some nice drives and shots to increase the lead of the hosts. On the Polish side, the team used the large inside presence of Premyslaw Karnowski to score a few buckets in the paint. But Paulius Semaska had some nice penetration plays but the last quarter was still ahead. Niedzwiedzki found his way back in the game in the beginning of the fourth quarter and gave his team the lead back on a massive three pointer. The more than 3000 fans started to get louder and pushed their team back in front. Poland made a last run to come back but several tough or non-calls prevented them from taking the game back in their hands. So Lithuania could bring this one home and will play tomorrow for Gold.
- The second semi-final was the game between Spain and Serbia. The game started with very cold teams on both sides before Jaime Fernandez opened the score for Spain with a three pointer. Nenad Miljenovic, the Serbian guard, did not show the talent level he is known for in the beginning and Serbia was happy to have some difficult scores by Nikola Pavlovic to stay in the game. While Spain displayed some excellent execution on their set plays, Serbia was more or less living from the individual efforts of Pavlovic and later on Miljenovic too. So Spain created a small lead at the end of the second quarter but a very long distance buzzer beater by Aleksandar Cvetkovic brought the team back to 2 at halftime. The 2nd 20 minutes, the Spanish team took over the game behind the scoring efforts of Fernandez and the inside work of Alejandro Suarez. On the Serbian side, only Cvetkovic was giving some opposition but it was not enough. And when he was fouled out in the last minute, the game was done.
- Something different, but important to mention is the story that the Turkish Enes Kanter is moving to the United States next season. The Turkish media report that Kanter refused some multi-million euro offers by Fenerbahce and Olympiacos to go for an eventual scholarship in 2010 of North Carolina. We will see what comes out of this story.