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Prkacin dominates instant classic, leads Croatia to first gold since 2011
NOVI SAD (FIBA U16 European Championship 2018) - It could not have been scripted any better. In the most dramatic finish all summer long, Croatia claimed gold in Novi Sad, outlasting Spain in the Final.
Roko Prkacin was named the tournament MVP, and the last minute of the Final will be a stepping stone for what is destined to be a magnificent career. Prkacin first threw down a thunderous dunk to hand Croatia a two-point lead with 19 seconds to go, Spain answered with a three-pointer by Hector Alderete that gave them the lead with six seconds remaining, but Prkacin would not be denied.
"In the timeout, I told the coach I wanted the ball," a confident 15-year-old Prkacin said about the game-winning play.
"It's not like I had a much different plan," Croatian coach Mile Karakas laughed. "But that just speaks volumes about his character, he's a natural born winner."
Prkacin sank the turn-around layup to win it for Croatia. The last Spanish attempt was by Kennedy Clement, but it bounced of the rim, as the result remained 71-70 for Croatia, and the red-and-white celebration could start in Novi Sad.
"No words. Honestly, no words, my head is completely empty right now. This is the best possible finish to this summer, to the whole journey that lasted 50 days. It is probably even sweeter that it ended like this, instead of a 20-point blowout," Karakas added.
Prkacin finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and had a huge helping hand in Boris Tisma, who scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half. Filip Paponja was doubtful to play, but was influential with his 9 points, Matej Bosnjak and Ivan Perasovic scored 8 each.
For Spain, Hector Alderete was the leading scorer with 17 points, playing all 40 minutes, but the key part was Usman Garuba fouling out with a minute left in the game. The 2016 MVP had 16 points and 18 rebounds before committing his 5th foul.
Croatia last won the FIBA U16 European Championship in 2011, going back-to-back. Overall, this is their fourth gold, the only other coming in 1995. Amazingly, Croatia never lost a Final at this level.
Joining Croatia and Spain on the podium were the Turkish players. Tibet Deniz Gorener exploded for 32 points in the Third-Place Game, handing France an 82-59 defeat, sending Turkey to the lowest step of the podium for the third time in last four years.
In the bottom half of the rankings, Slovenia put both hands on the last remaining ticket in Division A. An 80-71 win sent Montenegro to Division B next summer, where they will join the Netherlands and Georgia, the bottom two teams of the event in Novi Sad.
For the full final standings, please click here.