The semi-finals of the FIBA U16 Euros have been completed and we now know the two nations that will clash in Saturday’s showpiece final. Host nation Latvia downed reigning champions Spain to book safe passage to the finals, while the ever impressive France will join the Latvians after defeating Turkey.
Latvia vs. Spain, 81-71
As hosts of the FIBA U16 European Championships, Latvia would have wanted to do well on home soil, but defeating defending champions Spain on the route to the final is beyond that. This will be the first time Latvia has contested the final of this competition and has not even been to the semis before. It was a well-deserved win too as the home team punished Spain’s sloppy handling by grabbing 15 points from turnover ball.
It was an assured opening to proceedings by both teams, and any fears that the pressure would be too much for the players were quickly expelled. By the end of ten minutes the teams could not be separated and the score stood at 20-20. The 650 strong crowd in Riga spurred Latvia on and the players responded with a big second frame, piling in 26 points while holding Spain to 18, enough for a 46-38 lead at halftime. Spain’s grip on the championship was slipping, but the winners from last year put together a 19-21 third quarter to cut the gap to six points (65-59) after thirty minutes. Latvia eased any fourth quarter jitters with a solid winning final stanza, easing to the victory amid the celebrations.
Rodions Kurucs led the hosts with 23 points, while Arturs Strautins took 21 points and 9 boards in success.
Eric Martinez was the top scorer for the downed Spain, claiming 21 points for the team.
France vs. Turkey, 78-65
Turkey defeated France in the final of the 2012 FIBA U16 tournament, but the French exacted revenge in this semi-final to make its third showpiece. France has previously won this competition in 2004 and will carry both experience and arguably better form into the game. Les Bleus have looked formidable this week and remain the only team undefeated in the competition this year. France built the win on rough defence in the paint, flooding the zone and basically bullying the Turkish under the basket.
The French put on a big first quarter to set a pace that Turkey would struggle to match over 40 minutes. By time the first split came, the French held a comfortable 24-14 lead. In the second quarter the players in blue jerseys continued to control the game, crowding Turkey out and winning the frame 19-15 to hold a formidable 43-29 lead at the long break. France’s ascension continued in the third quarter as Les Bleus all but wrapped up the game with a dominating 25-18 frame to lead 68-47 after 30 minutes. Turkey mustered a reply in the fourth quarter and won the stanza 10-18, but it was not enough of a response to trouble France’s position. On this evidence, the French are the favourites for Saturday’s final.
Killan Tillie posted an impressive double-double for France, scoring 16 points and claiming a massive 17 boards, while Bathiste Tchouaffe scored 18 points.
Omer Faruk Yurtseven stood out for Turkey again, this time scoring 14 points and taking 7 rebounds in defeat.