They saved the best for last… The semifinal contests that pitted Turkey against Spain, and Croatia against host club Latvia, were two of the closest games of the FIBA Men U18 European Championships, with both games coming down to last second shots. In the Turkey-Spain contest, after leading the entire game, Spain found themselves down 11 with a minute to play and executed a near perfect strategy of quick fouls in the final minute to get Turkey on the line and get the ball back, cutting the deficit to a point with three seconds to play and essentially just running out of time, sending Turkey to the finals. In the Croatia-Latvia game, the hosts were down 10 with just under four minutes to play, came back to pull to within a deuce with 23 seconds to play and then had the lid fall on the basket giving Croatia the nod as the second team that will play for the title on Sunday.
Turkey – Spain, 77:75
Spain led the entire game until the fourth quarter, where Turkey came out early in the fourth and ran off enough points to take over. The Spaniards wouldn’t quit though and gave the fans in attendance a thrilling final to this quarterfinal match-up. Unfortunately for Spain, Turkey was able to hold them off down the stretch and booked their spot in the championship with a 77:75 victory.
The first quarter was close, but Spain was able to come out of the initial 10 with a 22:19 advantage. In the second they hit the first six points and shortly after had a 12-point margin, 35:23, with four minutes to play in the half. Turkey outscored Spain 12:6 in the final minute of the half to head into the dressing room only down seven, 41:34.
Turkey hit the first six points of the second half, cutting their deficit to a point, 41:40. Spain would not let go of the lead just yet, running off the next nine points, to extend their lead to 10, 50:40, and ending the third quarter up 53:44.
After Spain dropped in a free throw to open the fourth, Turkey took total control in the early parts of the fourth. Turkey went off on a 24:2 run that allowed them to take the score from 54:44 in favor of the Spaniards, to 68:56, in favor of Turkey, with just under three minutes to play.
With 59 seconds on the clock, Turkey’s Kartal Özmizrak connected on two free throws to give his club a 73:62 lead. Spain got a jumper from Alberto Martin and a pair of singles from Marc Garcia in the next 15 seconds. Ozmizrak hit another pair of three throws, with Garcia hitting a triple just five seconds later. Metecan Birsen connected on one of two singles, with Spain’s Juan Hernangomez dropping a three-ball seconds later and pulling Spain to within four, 76:72, with 18 seconds remaining. Dogukan Sanli missed two of two free throws, while Agusti Sans drained a three pointer with three seconds to play, giving Turkey a one-point margin, 76:75. Sans fouled Kenan Sipahi, who split is free throws, putting Turkey up two, but Spain just ran out of time, not being able to get a final shot off and securing Turkey’s position in the finals.
Kerem Kanter led Turkey with a game-high 22 points and 8 rebounds, while Sanli added 16, and Ozmizrak contributed 10. Spain got 12 each from Martin, Jose Nogues, and Ilimane Diop.
Croatia – Latvia, 72:68
In front of a home crowd of 2,500, the Latvian contingent dropped a tough contest with Croatia that came down to the final seconds.
Latvia owned the first half, taking a 23:18 lead into the second quarter where they were able to add another four to the margin with a 16:12 score, sending the teams into the break with Latvia up 39:30.
The third frame would prove to be the “game-changer” as the Croatians would hold the hosts to nine and run off 20 of their own. With the run Croatia went from down 39:30, to up 50:48 at the end of the third 10. Over the last two minutes of the frame, neither team would score again in the frame.
The first 10 points of the fourth quarter came from the Croatians, giving them a 60:48 lead with five and a half minutes to play. A 15:5 Latvia run got them back to within two, 65:63. Domagoj Bosnjak hit a jumper for Croatia at the 1:30 remaining mark. Ivars Zvigurs drained a jumper for Latvia, but was countered by a three-ball by Bosnjak that pushed the lead back to five. Kristaps Gluditis hit a follow-up three-ball for the hosts, while Gluditis got the ball back on a forced turnover, but wasn’t able to connect with the triple he put up with eight seconds to play. Paolo Marinelli was fouled with five seconds to play, sank both, and Davis Geks got the ball and a shot at the buzzer, but it wouldn’t have mattered had it fallen in as they were down four at the time.
Croatia got 16 points from Marinelli, 15 from Zganec, 13 from Bosnjak, and 10 from Mazalin. Latvia got a game-high 18 from Zvigurs., and 17 from Pasecnik.