After a little tour in the shopping center next to the Arena, it was about time to follow the relegation round as a decisive game for relegation was ahead. Sweden faced Ukraine in a Final for the last remaining spot on the highest level of U18 European Basketball.
It was also for me the possibility to see the extremely long Olexiy Len for the first time in action. And the least to say is that the Ukrainian giant had some major impact on the game. It was him with two plays in the decisive moment of the game, a dunk and a tremendous block, who destroyed the last hopes of Sweden for a final come-back. The game was open the first three-quarters before Ukraine made the break up to ten points with seven unanswered points. Jonathan Person tried to bring the Swedes back but it was not enough. The Scandinavian country has to go back to Division B.
Bronze Medal Game: Serbia – Latvia
In the first quarter of the game, Serbia could take a short early lead behind the effort of Bogdan Bogdanovic who came once again from the bench to give some scoring options. On the Latvian side, Davis Bertans had a quick start but was more calm so that Serbia went to the first break with a 16-14 advantage. Bertans had a good play to start the third quarter and brought the game to a tie. Latvia was now better in the game and Serbia struggled to get good looks on offense. Edmunds Dukulis dunks a nice one on the back door cut and the Serbian coach had to take a time-out to stop the run. Serbia tied the game again but the so-far 11th man Aleksejs Rostovs stepped up big as he hit his 2nd three-pointer from the corner to give the advantage back to the Baltics for the 30-28 half-time score.
The second half started with both teams not able to make any break and exchanged baskets. Nikola Siladi was not in his best day and continued to shot from outside while the main scoring task was still on Bogdanovic. But Latvia got a first lead by 5 points after another long three of Bertans. Serbia had to take a timeout after what was the largest advantage in the game so far. Kaspars Vecvagars scored a hard drive and continued with 2 free-throws to get to 47-38 with 2 minutes on the clock in the third quarter. The Baltic team increased their defensive effort and could even go to 50-38 on 2 free-throws of Bertans. Latvia played their best basketball at that moment and 5 consecutive points of Andris Misters gave them a 13 point lead at the end of the third quarter.
Bertans was ready for the last quarter as the forward immediately hit two three-pointers to bring the advantage to 18 points with 8 minutes on the clock. Despite a Serbian time-out, Bertans was now on fire and hit his sixth shot from behind the arc. But he was not only present on scoring but also went hard to the rebound and hustled down on the floor to get the lose balls. Arnolds Helmanis continued his sober work and hit the long jumper to bring the lead to 68-45 with 4 minutes on the clock. Everything was said and done for the Bronze Medal game and the last minutes were nothing else than celebration time for Latvia as Vecvagars slammed the nice break away dunk for the win. The nearly full arena went for minute-long Standing Ovations for the Bronze Medal winners.
MVP: Davis Bertans 24pts (6/9 3FGs) 8rebs 2asts
Gold Medal Game: Lithuania – Russia
Lithuania had the better start in the game after first basket of Jonas Valanciunas with a hook shot from the top. He was followed by Zygimantas Skucas who converted an open lay-up for the early 4-0 advantage. Dimitry Kulagin was nervous from the FT line and after a Dovydas Redikas three, the score was 8-0 in favor of the hosts. Sergey Karasev opened the score for Russia and three new players on the court helped them to come into the game. But it was not for long as fan favorite Deividas Pukis scored a difficult layup to make it a 10 point game. Russia was unable to make their long range shots and Valanciunas closed the basket on defense so that the hosts went up to 23-6 with 1 minute 30 seconds on the clock in the first quarter. Pukis was on fire and hit his second three to make it 28-9 at the break.
Lithuania continued their impressive play with another three-pointer by Pukis and an unsportsmanlike foul of Kulagin helped to hosts to go for an incredible 34-11 lead.Valanciunas acted as a leader and scored four points in a row but Karasev hit the three pointer from the corner to reduce the score to 38-18 and Lithuania took a time-out. It did not really help as Russia played a lot better now and it was the improbable Tamirlan Bekkiev who reduced the lead to 38-25. Russia blew away two great opportunities to bring it back to –10 as Andrey Loginov forced the long pass and Alexander Varnakov was called for a charge. Valanciunas came back from the bench and it was immediately felt as the Lietuvos Rytas Center grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with the foul. The hosts missed their free-throws but Valanciunas played the garbage man and grabbed multiple offensive boards to keep the lead above 10. Russia continued to shot from outside as they seemed afraid to go hard to the rim and Skucas scored the last basket of the first half to bring the score to 46-31. But the man of the game that far was Valanciunas with 17pts (7/8 FGs) and 11rebs.
Valanciunas continued his show at the beginning of the second half with an impressive dunk on the offensive rebound and the lead was back to 20 points. Russia was not able to do anything on offense than shoot the ball from distance and the Baltic team liked to run the fast break out of the safe defensive rebound. Vladislav Trushkin tried to keep the Russian hope alive as the Lithuanian guards went for several offensive fouls running into the pack. Bekkiev scored his third triple but Pukis answered immediately and kept the lead up around 20 points before the last ten minutes.
Varnakov opened the fourth quarter with a three-point shot but the tiny Renaldas Simanavicius scored his first basket of the game followed by a layup and the foul on Pukis. Valanciunas did what he wanted in the paint and slammed a big one on the Russian defense. Pukis scored his fifth triple of the night and the wave was turning multiple times through the Siemens Arena. Simanavicius increased his scoring and Valanciunas got deserved Standing Ovations when he left the court with 1min45 on the clock. The game was over and the party could start.
MVP: Jonas Valanciunas 31pts (12/15 FGs) 18rebs
- PG – Dimitry Kulagin
- SG – Deividas Pukis
- SF – Davis Bertans
- PF – Nikola Siladi
- C – Jonas Valaniciunas (MVP)