The final four nations of the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship have been decided after the USA, Croatia, Turkey, and tournament hosts Greece swept into the semi-finals. The group stages and Round of 16 certainly helped to sharpen the teams and this was easily the closest round of the competition so far. Even the United States, above everyone up to this point, were made to work hard against a spirited Italian effort, and it is with that game we’ll start.
USA vs. Italy, 86-65
Reigning champions USA stepped closer to defending their title by seeing off Italy to reach the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship. This was the tightest game for the champs so far as Italy built on momentum from last round to stay in the game. However, the Azzurri were ultimately outdone by a superior U.S. outfit and once again the favourites proved why they deserve that billing.
The game was won in the first half when the USA drained 53 points to hold a 23 point lead through the long break. Italy rallied in the third act, but ultimately the Europeans could not get closer to their clearly better opponents. Jalen Brunson led the USA with 17 points, while Harry Giles continued his fine tournament with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Diego Flaccdori topped Italy with 21 points and 6 assists.
Croatia vs. Canada, 84-71
Croatia used a huge first half to propel them to victory over Canada to reach its first semi-final since 2009. The country has contested the last four of the U19 World Championship three times but has never reached the final, something the players will want to change this year.
A 23-21 winning first quarter handed Croatia a slender lead through 10 minutes and the Europeans built on that to win the second 25-18 for a 48-39 halftime lead. Canada won the third 11-15 to make it interesting through thirty minutes, but Croatia went up a gear with a 25-17 run in the closing stanza to win the game. Luka Bozic and Marko Arapovic bother scored 20 points in the win, while both doubled up too, Bozic adding 10 rebounds and Arapovic 11 rebounds. Justin Jackson kept Canada in the game as he also plundered 20 points.
Turkey vs. Australia, 81-70
Turkey joined the USA and Greece in the still unbeaten nations file after overcoming a passionate Australia to reach the semi-finals. The Turkish contingent was actually down through the midway rest, but hit back in the second half and will now go further in the competition than it ever has before.
Turkey started well and in a patchy first quarter edged ahead 19-15, but Australia soon fought back and overturned the deficit and led 31-32 through halftime. The lead was small and the third quarter proved the difference as Turkey sparked and the Aussies wilted, the Turkish winning the frame 24-13 to lead 55-45 at the last split. Berk Ugurlu topped the scoring in the winning effort with 16 points, while Egemen Guven logged a double-double of 14 points and 11 caroms. Jack McVeigh once again stood out for Australia with 14 points.
Greece vs. Spain, 70-59
Greece has looked comfortable holding court in Heraklion and the hosts eased past Spain to make the semi-finals, and with home support who knows what can happen from here. Many will remember the 1995 tournament in Athens which Greece won, and this has been the country’s best showing at the U19’s since making the final in 2009.
The tightest game of the quart-final stage was decided by the third quarter after the teams had locked through halftime. Spain won the first quarter 14-12 and Greece matched that in Q2 to make it 26 apiece at the midway buzzer. In the third act the hosts exploded with 25 points while the Spanish only offered 15 points, it was enough to make things comfortable for the Greeks down the stretch.