After an exciting and exhilarating Thursday night, the Final Four of the FIBA U18 Europe is set and ready to go for gold.
Host nation Greece came through with the hands-down most thrilling game of the night. They needed an overtime period to get the job done but they eventually were able to put away a feisty Lithuanian squad 70-66 (OT).
The game boiled down to a duel between two top players from each team. Lituania’s Azuolas Tubelis carried the white shirts on his shoulders with a crazy 23-point, 20-rebound night. The only knock on his performance for the night would be the 4-for-10 shooting at the line. The Greeks answered with a heroic output of their own. Theirs came from Nikolaos Rogkavopoulos, who exploded for 25 points and 15 boards of his own. At the end of the day, turnovers took their toll and tipped the scales in favor of the Greek squad. Lithuania committed 17 turnovers compared to 11 from the blue shirts.
It has not been an easy route for Greece. That’s for sure. Somehow, they keep finding a way to advance and last night, advance is exactly what they did.
The event hosts of the FIBA U18 Europe will face a tough challenge in the semifinals as they will be squaring off against a stacked and dangerous Spanish team.
Spain punched their ticket to the next round after downing Russia 77-84 in the quarterfinals. Russia controlled the advantage early with a slim 18-16 lead at the end of the first quarter but Spain would turn the tables with an excellent second quarter and seized control of the game from there. Santiago Aldama paced three other Spanish teammates to score in double figures with 25 points and nine rebounds. Usman Garuba added 14 points and 14 rebounds, for a well-rounded two-way effort.
Turkey sent the French packing, at least for a trip that didn’t involve playing for the first-place trophy with a 69-64 win. It was an exciting comeback win for the Turks, who were staring at a 27-39 deficit at the end of the first half.
They played their hearts out in the fourth quarter and it paid off. Things came together for them as they shut down France 25-8. France was stunned but a win is a win and will have to placing game vs. the United Kingdom on August 3rd.
Speaking of the United Kingdom, they suffered the biggest blowout loss of the quarterfinals at the hands of Slovenia 57-71. Slovenia was in control of this game for the most part but only truly kept it out of reach for good in the fourth-quarter action. Pine Prepelic was Slovenia’s top scorer with 16 points, but props also go out to Ziga Samar, who piled on a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double performance for the winners.