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U18 European Championship 2012: the Final

August 20th, 2012 · No Comments

The last day of the U18 European Championship, but also the last day of the summer season with the different National Team events, saw Lithuania facing Croatia in a final match-up of the Scouting Period 2011/2012. The games did not only decide who will win Medals but also who is the last qualified nation from Europe for the U19 World Championship 2013 to be held in the Czech Republic.

Bulgaria – Italy 65-84

Italy was the better team right from the start as Amedeo Tessitori was impossible to stop for the Bulgarian inside players. The Italian big guy scored 16 points in the first 10 minutes and his team was up 25-13. During the second quarter, Italy could increase their lead to 20 points without any major problem and they could rest their main options Tessitori and Matteo Imbro in the second half. In the end, Italy finished the game slowly and earned a 7th place in the event.

Latvia – Spain 51-80

In a poor opening, Spain had the less bad start as they managed to take an 8-2 lead after 6 minutes. Alberto Diaz was running the point quite well but despite some lousy post defense, Guillermo Hernangomez could only score 2 points. Latvia was non-existent on offense and collected quickly 5 team fouls. A Latvian timeout did not change the intensity of the game as Spain continued to play on a low level while Latvia tried everything to be even worse. The second quarter was another disaster for the Baltic team that needed 4 more minutes to score their 7th point. Spain was playing a little better as Edgar Vicedo found some nice baskets while Oriol Pauli showed his versatility. The “run” of Latvia was however very short and Spain went to the locker room being ahead 43-17. The third quarter did not show anything interesting as Latvia seemed not to care about a potential qualification for the World Championship as they showed nothing. Spain slowly did their job but committed two unsportsmanlike fouls without giving Latvia any chance to win the game despite some kind of run in the last quarter.

Serbia – Russia 66-56

Serbia started a little better in the game as Russia just found solutions in the paint with Igor Kanygin while the Serbian offense was very balanced between outside and inside. Stefan Pot was the main offensive option for Serbia as the combo-guard drove hard to the basket with his right hand and finished with contact. Kanygin added another dunk but the Serbs were still leading by a small margin when Nikola Jankovic went down with a twisted ankle. Nikola Rebic, who did not play in the semi-final saw his first minutes of the game but missed his first shot. Mikhail Kulagin had his second break away dunk to give Russia a 19-16 lead and force a Serbian timeout with one minute left in the first quarter. Russia played their last offense of the quarter without too much thinking and Serbia could tie the score on the quarter buzzer.

Kulagin continued his strong play and while Serbia was missing free-throws so that the gap reopened in favor of Russia. Doko Salic used his size better now and could score the basket with the foul but Serdar Annaev answered with one of his energetic drives. The level was a lot higher than in the two previous games and the score remained tied at 28-28 after five minutes. Jankovic came back as his foot looked to be ok but Stanislav Ilnitskiy scored the nice three-point shot on a Pick and Pop with Annaev. Ilnitskiy added two more points from the free-throw line but Nikola Cvorovic reduced the difference back to 3 points. Salic was again the target of the Serbian offense as he could add another and-1 play while Jankovic had to go back to the bench. Serbia was back in front going into the last minute of the first half but no team was capable to add another basket so that at halftime, the score was 35-33 in favor of Serbia.

Pot opened the score for the second half but Russia had no problem to answer quickly. The decision making was a bit hesitant so that the score did not move a lot. Russia though could grab on several nice sequences by Pavel Kechetov but the quarter continued to be marked by poor offensive plays. Rebic found his confidence back as the small guard scored several points from the free-throw line but also on the difficult mid-range jump shot. The Russian coach was not very happy with his team and had to bring Annaev back to the court after only a short rest. But the momentum was on the Serbian side as Pot added another jump shot to bring their lead to 5 points. Salic made his third and-1 play of the game despite a hard foul by Kanygin while Kulagin was missing his shots. The Russian offense was close to collapsing when a clearly injured Jankovic had to come back to the court to just make one foul. Russia could not find the basket though before the last break so that Serbia was up 52-45.

Salic showed the way for Serbia with a nice jump hook to open the last quarter while the Russian offense was non-existing with yet another turnover that was followed by a hard unsportsmanlike foul on the fast break. Mihajlo Andric added another triple on the Pick and Pop play and the Russian coach had to call a timeout as his team was trailing by 13 points 8 minutes before the end. However, this did not change much on the Serbian dominance especially after Pot scored the tough three-pointer from the corner on the 24 seconds buzzer. Serbia did not feel secure though as their coach took a timeout with 5 minutes remaining in the game after Kulagin netted one after a long draught. Russia did not give up and the players fought hard to still have a little chance to earn a medal. Missing free-throws and forced shots were however the wrong solution especially as Pot was having a great day from behind the arc. Serbia finished the game easily as Russia did not try that much anymore and the team from the Balkan added another Medal to their long collection of Youth Basketball successes.

MVP: Stefan Pot 21pts (8/14 FGs), 4rebs, 2asts

Lithuania – Croatia 76-88

Croatia immediately went to Dario Saric in the low post who was guarded by Denis Kristinin. But the Croatian forward had no problems to score on the jump hook that was followed by a three point shot of Dominik Mavra. Marius Grigonis opened the score for his team with a tough three-pointer on the 24 seconds buzzer but Saric insisted in the low post versus Krestinin. Despite a Lithuanian timeout, Saric continued to dominate the game with a big presence in the paint and Croatia went ahead by 13-5. Lithuania was unable to finish their plays well even from close and struggled to secure the defensive rebound. Saric continued his festival with a nice face up jumper but Lithuania saw Grigonis hitting the big three-pointer to stay in the game. Saric got warned for simulating and the arena got loud as they felt a potential momentum swing coming. With Saric on the bench, Lithuania switched to a zone defense but they still gave away too many offensive rebounds and even scored a basket for Croatia on a badly negotiated free-throw. The gap melted though slowly as Saric was missing everywhere on offense and the Greens found their scores on the charity stripe. Tomislav Gabric score the big three-pointer on the buzzer though and Croatia was leading 22-15 after the first quarter.

Saric was now defended by Simas Raupys and the shorter Lithuanian played the offensive foul and was successful with this tactic. However, the Croatian forward rejected a shot on defense and scored the next position again in the post. This gave his team a ten-point lead and the Lithuanian coach needed a timeout to bring his team back on track. Saric committed his third foul on a good fight by Raupys and Croatia had to bring their star back to the bench. This was the moment that Lukas Lekavicius chose to score his first basket and reduce the gap to 7 points. Augustinas Jankaitis finally managed to score a layup on the Pick and Roll situation and Croatia took the timeout. Gabric added another nice triple followed by his typical emotions but Raupys answered with the layup and the foul. The Croatian coach called Saric back into the game for the last minute and the forward was intelligent enough to avoid the block shot on a Lithuanian drive. Lekavicius though pushed through the defense and scored a very tough underhand layup to bring the score to 33-36 at halftime.

Lekavicius made two of his typical falling one handed jumpers to start the second half while Saric was back in the low post. Lekavicius split the defense again and found the surprising Jokubas Gintvainis in the corner for the three-point shot and the first lead of the game. Karlo Zganec scored his first basket of the game and Croatia was back in front with four points as the Lithuanian offense had cooled down. He added another one from the same spot and Lithuania had to go for a timeout. Justas Tamulis though scored from beyond the arc and added a nice floating layup on the fast break to come back to –1. But Croatia answered immediately with Saric and Jakov Mustapic from three. The level of the game went up with Raupys who scored a triple too. Saric went to the bench to avoid a fourth personal and Gabric scored the dunk on the break but Tamulis helped Lithuania by adding a last three-pointer of the quarter. The Balkan team was still up by 5 points before the last ten minutes.

Saric opened the last quarter with a big and-1 play but Tamulis was now present and scored a difficult layup on the drive. However, Croatia produced another short run and went ahead by 10 points with 7 minutes 30 to go in the game. Mustapic scored a layup with the foul on the fast break but afterwards Raupys and Zganec got into a sort of mini-fist fight that saw both players being disqualified. Raupys left the arena under a huge applause by the fans that were now fired up to push their team for a last run. Tamulis scored his third three-pointer and the gap was only 6 points with 5 minutes on the clock. Lithuania tried the full court press but Saric found the hole to score. Rokas Gustys who was now in charge of the Croatian Number 9 scored a layup and forced a turnover by doubling him down low. Saric though recognized that Gustys was slower than him and started to play him from outside in the next offense. The game was now a series of free-throw shots as both teams fouled on nearly every possession. Saric though changed this by making a huge three-point shot to bring the 10 point lead back with 2min20 on the clock. Grigonis played the hard drive for the score on the left hand but it seemed to be too late for his team. Saric played the drive again, found Brzoja who scored the big three that was the decision for the Gold.

MVP: Dario Saric 39pts (15/24 FGs), 11rebs, 4asts, 3stls, 2blks

All-Tournament Team

  • PG – Nikola Radicevic (SRB)
  • SG – Mikhail Kulagin (RUS)
  • SF – Marius Grigonis (LIT)
  • PF – Dario Saric (CRO) – MVP
  • C – Nikola Jankovic (SRB)

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