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U18 European Championship 2013: 1/2 Finals

July 28th, 2013 · No Comments

Here we go for the 2nd day in Riga to cover the U18 European Championship of Division A.

The day started in the second gym to follow the relegation game between Bosnia/Herzegovina and Bulgaria. When the overall level of this match was not great, it was nevertheless interesting to follow two interesting prospects in Aleksandar Vezenkov and Sandro Gacic. The game remained tied throughout the first half but Bosnia ran away in the second half behind some great plays by Gacic. With the victory, BIH has reached the decisive game to stay in Division A while Bulgaria faced relegation.

Afterwards, I went back to the main arena to follow the game between Serbia and France. There was nothing on the line here as there were no qualifications for a World Championship but both teams played with intensivity. Ognen Jaramaz ran the show for Serbia who was up throughout the game and the athletic guard got some support by Vasilije Vucetic in the first half. On the French side, Etienne Ory was doing his job in the backcourt while Damien Inglis continued to struggle with his shot. Jaramaz played a great second half where he was very present with scoring on the drive but also from behind the arc and helped his team to get an uncontested victory in this meaningless game.

Croatia – Latvia 72-68

Latvia started well into the game with Anzejs Pasecniks scoring 5 points in a row to get an early lead. But Croatia responded driven by an excellent Paolo Marinelli in the first minutes. Pasecniks was still the target of the Latvian offense as their guards tried to find him in Pick and Roll situations while Croatia used the speed of Marinelli to attack the basket. Ivars Zvigurs was the main man in the beginning of the second quarter when he flew in a nice dunk on the baseline drive. Latvia went up to +10 especially because Marko Arapovic had some problems to finish in the paint. Roland Smits was making his shots while Kristaps Porzingis was calm in this first half. Latvia stayed ahead with around 8-10 points as Pasecniks continued to score in different ways against the struggling Croatian inside defense.

Croatia reduced the gap slightly to start the second half with Karlo Zganec and Lovro Mazalin scoring from the free-throw line. Arapovic woke up as well with a nice three-point shot but Zvigurs answered with one of his trademark drives. A key play in the game happened then as Porzingis fouled Zganec on the drive but gave him another hit afterwards called as an unsportsmanlike which was his fifth foul. Croatia used this situation to come back to only one point while they were in foul trouble themselves though. Latvia looked a bit shocked after these calls and Croatia took the lead for the first time since the beginning of the game at the last quarter break. Zganec continued to do work in the paint to start the fourth quarter and gave Croatia an eight point lead early on. Andrija Coric added two more and Latvia needed a timeout with 7 minutes remaining in the game. Croatia was at +12 when Coric fouled out and Latvia used this for a quick 5-0 run to reduce the gap to seven points. Zvigurs took over now with several great drives to bring the score to 65-61 and the hope of a Latvian final was there again. Davis Geks brought his team to two points from the FT line and the arena was there to support their kids in their quest. Domagoj Bosnjak answered with a really hard drive to bring Croatia up 4 again.

Zvigurs came up with another drive that Bosnjak answered with a huge three. Latvia stayed alive though when Gluditis hit the bonus shot from the corner with 24 sseconds on the clock. Croatia turned it over on the inbound after the timeout so that Latvia had the chance to tie it but missed their shot. Marinelli was perfect from the free-throw line and sent Croatia to the final of the U18 European Championship.

Turkey – Spain 77-75

Spain had the better start into the game as they scored nine quick points to grab an early 9-3 advantage after not even two minutes. Turkey however came back quickly with Kerem Kanter showing the way even from behind the arc. Ilimane Diop was really present for Spain on both ends of the floor as the long inside presence rejected shots on the one end while putting back the misses on the offensive side. Nobody could create a bigger lead so that Spain went to the first break being 3 points up.

Spain rushed away in the beginning of the second quarter as Okben Ulubay made some poor choices on offense giving the Iberians good transition opportunities. They insisted inside with Juan Hernangomez and Ruben Guerrero while Turkey struggled to find good positions against the Spanish defense. The difference went up to 13 points as you had the feeling that Turkey was unable to find the right person on offense and everybody tried it by himself. Nevertheless, Dogukan Sanli was the man who brought Turkey back with his outside shooting while Ulubay floated one in to bring the difference to only 7 at halftime.

Turkey came really focused out of the locker room and cut the lead to only three points after two minutes on another basket by Sanli. But Spain did not panic and took back the control with Diop scoring five points in a row from close. The momentum had changed again and Turkey struggled to find any offensive opportunities against the great Spanish defense. Diop gave his team a double-digit advantage and the Turkish coaches still refused to call a time-out.

James Birsen opened the last ten minutes with a nice triple that brought Turkey back into the game and Kenan Sipahi had his first nice move of the contest only now finding Kanter for the layup twice and a 5 point game. Sanli even brought it back again to only 3 points after the Spanish timeout but he could not convert the bonus shot struggling like his whole team from the charity stripe (2/14 FT until then). Sanli was present on the break once again and gave his team the first lead of the game with 6 minutes on the clock.

Birsen knocked down his third three pointer of the game from the same spot and Turkey was now in control of the game going up by six points as Spain was unable to find the way to the basket. Turkey played superbly as they were on a 24-3 run in the last quarter with 3 minutes on the clock. Kanter played his heart out hustling in the paint and he gave Turkey a 12 point lead on another offensive rebound. Spain tried some desperation moves but they had lost the game and Turkey was in the final by actually just playing one single quarter. But it was the one that decided the game.

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