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U20 European Championship 2011: the Final

July 24th, 2011 · No Comments

The U20 European Championship 2011 in Bilbao has come to an end with the Gold Medal of Spain in front of Italy and France. As we could not attend the tournament, we will just go for a recap of the Final game between the hosts and Italy that has been played tonight in the Basque Country.

Nicolo Melli started the game very well for Italy with 6 points in the first minutes. Among his scores was a very impressive attack of the basket going right and changing direction with a behind the back dribble to his left hand and a running jump shot finish. On the defensive end, Melli did a good job to keep Nikola Mirotic of the ball but he got called for two quick fouls which sent him to the bench after 7 minutes into the game. Until then, Mirotic struggled to score except by free-throws as the Italian defense put him in trouble several times with aggressive double teams. When the Montenegro born big guy attacked the basket out of the low post, Riccardo Cervi was very present to keep him away from the easy baskets with 3 quick blocked shots while his team mates read the passing lanes very well. Alessandro Gentile did not have the best start into the game as his only score in the first quarter was an open fast break dunk where he showed his still surprising athletic abilities.

Italy started the second quarter really well behind a strange-looking three pointer by Filippo Baldi Rossi and a good left handed drive by Riccardo Moraschini but this was quickly answered by the so far calm Josep Franch and Alejandro Barrera who was the Spanish top scorer until that moment. Mirotic showed his excellent understanding of the game in order to get open by some good direction fakes to get the ball in the back-door situation and bring Spain back on top. He came up with another big move facing the basket and putting the ball on the floor to get the mid-range jump shot from 5 meters without any problem. On the other side, Moraschini continued to attack the basket from both sides and provoked some more fouls to go for the easy score from the free-throw line. But Mirotic came up with a big three-pointer in a Pick and Pop situation from the wing to give Spain the largest lead of the first half at 29-35. Baldi Rossi scored another three after the time-out which was immediately answered though by Alberto Jodar while Spain continued to find Mirotic in the paint for some easy baskets. Gentile was not really in the game as he took some difficult shots but without being successful. At halftime, Spain was 42-35 behind 19pts (7/10 FGs) and 3rebs by Nikola Mirotic.

Gentile came out of the locker in conquest mode with a great three point shot coming of the screen but the immediate third foul by Melli and a triple by Jodar stopped the Italian hopes rapidly. Mirotic continued his show with a soft 4 meters baseline jump shot to put the lead up to 9 points. Franch came up with one of his typical drives reading the open gap to break into it with good acceleration and finishing his move with the finger roll lay-in from the top. Melli and Moraschini tried to reduce the gap by attacking the basket for the score but Franch answered with a great two-handed dunk against the defense. But Spain suffered another loss after the elbow-hit Joan Sastre in the beginning as Jose Simeon had to leave the court with a twisted ankle. However, Italy/Gentile rushed some decisions on the offensive end that gave Spain the possibility to score easily on the break and put the score again to 11 points after the “Azzurri” came back to –6. After his dunk, Franch was full of confidence and scored a nice mid-range jump shot out of the drive after Italy had two baskets on the fast break. But Gentile turned over another ball when he tried to attack the basket against two defenders and Spain could go up 68-55 before the last ten minutes.

Mirotic started the last quarter with one of his difficult mid-range jump shots out of the dribble while Italy still did not give up by being permanently present in the passing lanes to steal the ball. Andrea de Nicolao kept the Italian hope alive with a three-pointer to cut the lead to 14 and the tiny PG showed great aggressiveness to steal the ball and grab the offensive rebound. Italy was at –8 and still in the game with about six minutes to go. Italy missed though several opportunities to cut the lead further as Melli missed two jump shots in a row. Mirotic scored on a difficult put-back to advance the score again to +12 and Franch hit the difficult drive that was the dagger at +14 with 2 minutes to go in the game. Italy could not do anything the reduce the gap and the Spaniards could enjoy their first ever Gold Medal at the U20 level.

All-Tournament Team

  • PG – Alessandro Gentile (Italy)
  • SG – Evan Fournier (France)
  • SF – Boban Dubljevic (Montenegro)
  • PF – Nikola Mirotic (Spain) – MVP
  • C – Furkan Aldemir (Turkey)

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