We had already arrived in Wroclaw yesterday and after some tourist attractions this morning, it was time to go to the Hala Orbita for following the Quarter-Finals of the U18 European Championship 2011 of Division in Poland.
Spain – Croatia 64-50
The Spanish team had the better start into the game behind the drives of Jaime Fernandez and the work in the paint of Alejandro Suarez. However, they could not create a large lead against a Croatian team that was very well lead by Martin Junakovic. In the second quarter, the Croats tried to use their size advantage on the guard positions with Armin Mazic and Mislav Brzoja but they struggled to conclude from close against the smaller Spanish defenders. This was good for the South Europeans as they could not find any opportunities on offense against the Croatian zone except for some uninspired three-point shots. Both teams did not take advantages from the errors of their respective opponents so that score remained low and the difference as well at halftime. Spain dominated the rebounding because of simply more will to go hard to the boards on offense.
Spain started better into the third quarter and took a short lead at 37-33 with 4 minutes on the clock. They continued to impress with their great aggressiveness in rebounding and made their open shots while Brzoja was still not in the game (1/9 FGs at that moment). Josep Perez scored 5 points in a row for Spain to get the largest lead of the game at 44-36 before the last 10 minutes. Croatia started to play stronger and more aggressive and could reduce the gap behind the relentless efforts of Marko Ramljak on both ends of the court and were down only 3 points with 5 minutes on the clock. But two three-pointers of Fernandez and Daniel Diez who played a great game that far brought the difference again to 9 points. These two shots looked like the neck-breakers as the Spanish players continued to hit from outside and Croatia did not find any solution against. Spain even added the show with an back-door alley-oop against a sloppy Croatian defense. The first semi-finalist was known.
MVP: Jaime Fernandez 16pts (4/15 FGs – 6/8 FTs), 3rebs, 6asts, 10fd
Turkey – Lithuania 80-70
Turkey had a good start into the game as they attacked the Lithuanian defense constantly. The Baltic team was unable to score from close because of the size of Ramazan Tekin and Paulius Semaska run several times into a defensive wall out of which he did not find any solution. After 6 minutes, Turkey was up 18-8 and Lithuania had to take their first time-out. The Lithuanians came out with 4 quick points on the fast-break and were back in the game. But they struggled from the free-throw line (2/8 in Q1) which kept the difference between both teams around the ten points mark. Tayfun Erülkü continued to penetrate at will against a Lithuanian defense that was not really present in the beginning of the second quarter. The Greens reduced the gap after changing their defense to a zone but the Turks adapted after some hesitation to push the lead back to 10 behind some nice scores of Samet Geyik and the assists of Kenan Sipahi. At halftime, they were up 43-31.
Lithuania faced another problem in the beginning of the 2nd half as Simonas Kymantas got quickly called his fourth foul after an offensive and a technical. This raised the intensity of the Baltic team as they had the feeling to go for all or nothing. Mantas Mockevicius scored 6 points in a row and started some kind of mental fight in order to get into Sipahi’s head. On another strong drive by Semaska, Lithuania reduced the gap to only two points and Tomas Lekunas tied the game from the free-throw line with 2min30 to go in the third quarter. Arturas Gudaitis did an amazing job on the defensive end by rejecting shots and grabbing rebounds while Lithuania connected as well from the free-throw line. The five points advantage melted quickly though as the Turkish were concentrated again and took over the lead at 64-63 on a layup by Tekin. It were the minutes of Ahmet Tuncer who several times created good offensive opportunities for his team. Geyik hit another triple but Lithuania did not give up though and forced Turkey to take a timeout at 72-68 with 2min42 on the clock. But Sipahi’s team mates played harder again and brought the victory home in the end.
MVP: Samet Geyik 20pts (9/14 FGs), 8rebs, 2asts
Poland – Italy 52-70
Poland started their game well as they looked immediately for Przemyslaw Karnowski in the paint who had no counter-part on the Italian side. Italy, who had to play without their top-scorer Amedeo delle Valle, did not let the hosts run away too quickly doing a good job with Raphael Gaspardo. Italy even took over the lead as Matteo Imbrò scored a nice three-pointer and Amedeo Tessitori scored from the baseline. The 1994 born Tessitori did also a good job on defense against Karnowski and forced Poland to take a time-out. Italy continued to play very concentrated while on the Polish side, Mateusz Ponitka and Michal Michalak were not yet finding their shots (2/8 FGs combined). Italy could even increase their lead as Diego Monaldi hit a difficult three-pointer from the corner with 5min30 to go in the second quarter. At that moment Italy was up 25-17 and Poland could not find their rhythm on offense. Imbrò hit another shot from the corner and the Azzurri were up 30-19 after 17 minutes. Poland struggled badly on offense as they had virtually no team play and everybody tried to create some shot from outside in order to reduce the gap. It did not work and Italy was up 36-20 at halftime.
The second halftime started well for Italy with a nicely executed play which gave them an open dunk. Poland showed some fighting spirit and Michalak hit the first three-pointer for his team to bring the gap closer to 10. However, Grzegrorz Grochowski got called for a second technical for flopping which slowed down the Polish comeback. Imbrò answered with his next three-pointer while Karnowski continued to miss the target in the low post. Italy kept the intensity level very high and stole another couple of balls to bring the lead to highest point of the game at 51-29 before the last ten minutes. Matteo Chillo stepped up big during this second half as he scored in a variety of ways for Italy. Poland reduced the gap to 14 on the 5 minutes mark on a layup by Ponitka but Imbrò answered immediately with 4 quick points. Nobody could answer these for the Reds and the big surprise happened. Italy advanced to the semi-finals.
MVP: Matteo Imbrò 17pts (6/17 FGs), 5rebs 5asts, 2stls, 1blk
France – Serbia 61-71
France started the game a bit better as they could take the lead with 4 quick points of Livio Jean-Charles but once he joined the bench, Serbia took over the lead. Vasilije Micic controlled the game speed and found Nemanja Dangubic for the spectacular back-door alley-oop. Serbia went up to 15-10 but William Howard hit the important triple to bring his team back at –2. But Serbia was not too shocked and immediately took back the control and went to the first break with a 23-15 lead on a buzzer beater by Nenad Miljenovic. In the beginning of the 2nd quarter, Miljenovic took over the good feeling and added a three-pointer and a three-point play that brought their lead to 13. France could reduce the Serbian lead slightly but did not find the way to their typical game. After another time-out, France improved their defense and earned some easy points on the break. Benjamin John hit the mid-range shot on the buzzer and we had a 40-34 score in favor of Serbia at halftime.
France started better into the second half with Mam Jaiteh finding good positions in the paint. Les Bleus even tied the game on a Howard dunk on yet another fast break with 6min30 to go in Q3. Jaiteh continued to dominate in the paint and was the main scoring option for the French team. Serbia switched for the first time to a zone defense and this short change gave them a little advantage that was though quickly annihilated as France scored on the buzzer this time. They even could find a 5 point lead but Dangubic and Nemanja Bezbradica on a no-look pass from Miljenovic tied the game again. With Jaiteh on the bench with 5 fouls, the French inside defense started to struggle and Nikola Jankovic could create several second chances for his team that they used to get up 60-56. Bezbradica concentrated on playing inside and helped his team a lot to go ahead 8 points before the last two minutes. Even if John hit the desperation three with the last minute beginning, it was not enough as Miljenovic continued to find his team mates on the cuts. Serbia advanced to the semi-final.
MVP: Nemanja Bezbradica 19pts (7/12 FGs), 3rebs