Today, the semi-finals of the U17 World Championship have been played in the Sporthalle Hamburg. Team USA faced Canada while Lithuania played against Poland in a European duel.
Canada – USA
Canada had the better start on a layup by Dyshawn Pierre but the United States immediately cut their deficit from the FT line. And it was Bradley Beal who scored the first basket for the USA with a three-pointer to bring the score to 5-2 in their favor. After a three on each side, the two teams started to struggle to get their offense going for a few minutes with the defenses getting more intense. With the entry of Michael Gilchrist for the US, the team could increase their lead to 7 but Kevin Pangos answered with a three point shot. But Gilchrist imposed himself a few times in the paint and USA went up 24-15 with a minute to go in the first quarter. Canada could not do a lot with Pangos on the bench already (he had 5 TOs in the first 7 minutes) and Marquis Teague scored the layup on the buzzer to bring the result to 30-17.
The second quarter started with turnover number 6 for Pangos, Anthony Bennett forced still his shots and USA easily increased their lead to 20 points. Pangos went down and had to go to the bench. Andrew Wiggins tried to keep Canada’s head up on offense and helped them to come back to 14pts and force a US timeout. Beal then stopped the American draught with a three but Team Canada gained in confidence and scored now even in the paint against the US big guys. Junior Lomomba was the main author the comeback as the forward had some good plays on the break. Pangos came back in the game and had a nice defensive presence to create the possibility for Canada to cut the deficit to 6. Negus Webster-Chan finished a nicely executed last offense for Canada while Quinn Cook hit the rim with his buzzer-beating attempt from his own half.
USA had the better start into the second half with two quick baskets and a drawn charge. But two consecutive three pointers by Pangos and a offensive rebound by Pierre cut the lead of the US to only 5 points with 6mins34 in the 3rd quarter. Gilchrist stopped the Canadian run with a score and the foul and Anthony Wroten forced Roy Rana to call a timeout. Wiggins came out strong and slammed a big one on the break to go for another score with the foul. But the United States improved their defensive effort again and went up 10 points again at the end of the third quarter.
The Americans started the last quarter very well with some fast breaks and Beal hitting his third three pointer of the game. The difference was then again 19 points and the Canadian hopes of the surprised melted away in the heat of the Sporthalle. Gilchrist continued his show in the paint and Canada felt that the Gold-Medal game was slipping away. Thomas score the 100th point for the US and both teams finished the game with several fast breaks and high-flying action.
MVP: Michael Gilchrist 30pts (11/15 FGs) 15rebs 2stls 1blk
Lithuania – Poland
Lithuania had the better start with a three and a nice inside play to go up 5-0 after two minutes and it was Przemyslaw Karnowski who scored the first basket for Poland after only 3 and a half minutes. Mantas Mockevicius had another strong drive to put the score to an unexpected 8-2 for Lithuania after 5 minutes. And when Paulius Semaska hit the three to put the score to 11-2, Poland needed a time-out. Lithuania played small ball with 1m99 Aurimas Majauskas as Center so that Poland continued to give the ball on offense to Karnowski. But on the offensive end, the Baltic team played to perfection with Tomas Lekunas scoring the three to bring the lead to 8 points. With Majauskas being changed to an even shorter player, Lithuania played a highly aggressive defense that gave Mockevicius the opportunity for the spectacular dunk on the break. But Tomasz Gielo cut the lead back to 21-12 at the Q1 buzzer.
Poland continued to use the size of Karnowski to score and give fouls to the Lithuanian big guys. Additionally, their zone defense started to intercept some Lithuanian passes which helped them to cut the Baltic lead. Michal Michalak hit a difficult base line jumper and the Reds were back in the game at 21-21. Mockevicius had seen enough and created 4pts for Lithuania with the great pass and the tough layup. The guard stayed confident as he knocked down a three immediately after going for a bad behind-the-back pass attempt. Narkevicius hit his third triple afterwards but Mateusz Ponitka answered immediately with the first long-distance score for the favorite. Poland was back to 5 but Mockevicius flew in yet another tough layup with his surprising athleticism. But Ponitka was the man of the moment as he scored another three and stole the pass to finish with the emphatic dunk on the break with an unsportsmanlike foul. The guard scored another layup on the drive and had 14 points in a row for his team for the halftime score of 39-38 for Poland.
Both teams started with a three-pointer to the 2nd half and Karnowski tried to impose his physique in the paint but he was not in his best shooting day missing a couple of close attempts. But Ponitka continued where he stopped in the first half by making another shot from behind the arc. Poland was now in the game and Gielo slammed one on the back-door cut. A block by Karnowski gave Poland the opportunity to go ahead by 7 after a three pointer from the corner. But Martynas Paliukenas answered with a three-pointer from the corner as well and the Lithuanian team stayed in the game. Karnowski muscled another one in and Poland was up 60-52 at the end of the third quarter.
Ponitka scored his 5th three pointer of the evening and it looked like the game was now in its decisive phase as the Lithuanians started to struggle. Only Mockevicius on an offensive rebound and Karnowski on one of his multi-fake post moves managed to score and Lithuania took the timeout with 5mins35 remaining on the clock and the score at 65-56 for Poland. Lekunas scored the triple from the top and Poland turned the ball. With six points behind, the Baltic team had everything in their hands and Mockevicius exploded to the rim to score the layup against Karnowski. Kymantas made his 8th point of the game and Lithuania was back at –2. Filip Matczak scored the tough layup to give Poland again 4 point advantage at the edge of the last 2 minutes of the game. Gielo scored the layup and Mockevicius forced the drive and committed and offensive foul that probably sealed the deal of this semi-final as Poland was up 6 with the ball at 1min30. Karnowski, who had not his best shooting day, made two more free-throws to bring the lead to 8 points and when Gielo blocked a three point attempt, the decision was close. Poland scored the free-throws and earned a 75-65 win to advance to the Final of the U17 World Championship.
MVP: Mateusz Ponitka 22pts (3/5 2FGs 5/7 3FGs) 3rebs 2stls