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Montenegro's magical ride takes hosts to Final vs undefeated France; Serbia to meet Croatia for third place
PODGORICA (FIBA U16 European Championship 2017) - Montenegro's magical ride at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017 crescendoed even further as the hosts booked their spot in the Final where they will face undefeated France in their date with destiny.
Stefan Vlahovic was almost unstoppable for Montenegro in the Semi-Finals.
The trio of Jovan Kljajic, Stefan Vlahovic and Bojan Tomasevic was each electrifying in their own way in guiding Montenegro to a 73-66 victory over rivals Serbia in the Semi-Finals. Kljajic collected 17 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists - each one of them more spectacular as the night wore on. Vlahovic added a game-high 21 points including 6-of-11 free throws; and Tomasevic picked up 12 points and 15 rebounds. It was the rebounding which made a huge difference, especially Montenegro's offensive glass with 21 offensive boards to help the hosts win the rebounding battle 47-38.
Serbia got 18 points and 6 rebounds from Djordje Pazin; 15 points from Aleksandar Langovic; and 6 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds from Stevan Karapandzic. But they were not enough as the 2007 champs will have to go for their third bronze medal after 2009 and 2012.
The game was close throughout the first half until Montenegro's dynamic duo of Vlahovic and Kljajic stepped up in the third quarter and the lead was 61-46 early in the fourth quarter. Serbia fought back and cut the gap to 69-65 inside the final minute, but Kljajic delivered a fantastic pass to Viktor Vujisic to stop the surge and make it 71-65 with 32 seconds remaining.
Montenegro's road to the Final has seen them take down Italy, Lithuania and Serbia in succession. Montenegro's task doesn't get any easier as they face undefeated France.
France will actually be a bit rested after easing past Croatia in their Semi-Final, 83-60 with Killian Hayes collecting 20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 0 turnovers, and Theo Maledon scoring 19 points with 6 steals. France blew the game open in the second quarter with a 21-6 run and Hayes picked up 10 points in the third quarter as the lead continued to swell. Croatia, who got 25 points and 8 rebounds from Matej Rudan, were never closer than 18 points in the fourth quarter. Croatia now face Serbia in the Third-Place Game, looking for their fourth podium finish - after the titles in 1995, 2010 and 2011. They have finished fourth twice - in 2006 and 2016.
The two teams who will battle for Europe's fifth spot at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018 were set as Lithuania beat Spain 92-80 and Turkey held off Latvia 79-73. Lukas Kreismontas had 18 points to lead six Lithuanians in double figures in the Classification 5-8. Ismail Karabilen collected 13 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists while Omer Kucuk and Tarik Sezgun both tallied 13 points for Turkey. Spain, who got 20 points from Jaime Pradilla, will face Latvia in the game for seventh place.
Timo Lanmuller played a huge role in getting Germany into one more game to stave off relegation to Division B.
In the Classification 13-16, Germany and Sweden won and stayed alive in the fight to remain in Division A. They will play in the 13th place game with the winner staying in the top flight and the loser dropping to Division B. Germany beat Finland 75-62 as Timo Lanmuller had 19 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Sweden needed overtime and came back from a 14-point deficit to beat Russia 79-76. Alan Brzezinski scored 16 points to lead five Swedes in double figures including Erik Kall, who had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Russia wasted massive double-doubles from Dmitrii Kadoshnikov (13 points and 20 rebounds) and Viktor Lakhin (14 and 13) and will go down to Division B along with Finland.
Classification 9-12 saw Italy knock off Estonia 65-53 with Nico Mannion collecting 22 points and 8 rebounds; and Slovenia beat Israel 70-59 with Gregor Glas scoring 22 points while Rok Radovic had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists.