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Italy use huge comeback to reach Semi-Finals with France, Russia, Spain, book U17 World Cup tickets
UDINE (Italy) - The FIBA U16 European Championship 2019 experienced a breathtaking Quarter-Finals day with the four games being decided by a total of seven points and two of them going to overtime. In the end, France, hosts Italy, Russia and Spain advanced to the Semi-Finals and with it booked their tickets to the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2020.
Italy came back from a 21-point deficit in the first quarter and ended up knocking off Greece 64-63 to reach the U16 Semi-Finals for the first time since 2013.
Greece scored the first 17 points of the game and led 23-2 before Italy slowly got their way back into the game. They took their first lead early in the fourth quarter and then Matteo Spagnolo scored the game-winning floater with 9.1 seconds with Ivan Onojaife blocking Sotirios Oikonomopoulos' final shot to secure the win.
Italy were paced by Davide Casarin with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists while Tommaso Marangoni scored 11 points and Spagnolo added 9 points and 8 rebounds. Oikonomopoulos had 18 points in the loss and Lefteris Mantzoukas tallied 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Italy's top four matchup will be three-time champions France, who needed overtime but defeated reigning champs Croatia 80-78 to reach the Semis for the third straight summer.
France built an 11-point lead in the second quarter but it was tight the rest of the way and the French were led by center Victor Wembanyana, who collected 12 points, 21 rebounds and 8 blocks while Nathan De Sousa had 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
Croatia, who got a buzzer-beater from Zvonimir Ivisic to send the game to overtime, were paced by Tomislav Ivisic with 25 points and 7 rebounds while his twin brother Zvonimir had 15 points and 6 rebounds, Duje Brala picked up 11 points and 8 rebounds and Antonio Klarin dished out 10 assists.
Russia continued their magical tournament by knocking off Turkey 73-70 and returning to the Semi-Finals of the competition for the first time in 13 years. Russia have twice been relegated to Division B and promoted back to Division A in the last four years, and they have not made the top four at this competition since 2006 - when they lost in the Final to Spain.
Aleksandr Kolosov collected 28 points and 7 rebounds while Iaroslav Niagu had 8 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks and both Nikita Mozharovskiy and Gedminas Rumsha chipped in 6 assists as Russia reached the U17 World Cup for the first time in the country's history.
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Birkay Yilmaz led Turkey with 15 points and 5 steals and Omer Ege Peksari had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals. But Turkey shot themselves in the foot by making just 13-of-30 free throws for 43 percent, including 2-of-8 in the final 82 seconds. Still Turkey had a chance to tie the game in the end but Koralp Turk's three-pointer at the buzzer clanged off.
In the Semi-Finals, Russia will face Spain, who advanced to the top four for the sixth time in the last seven summers after prevailing 72-71 in an overtime thriller over Serbia. The biggest lead for either team was nine points and Spain evened the game with 1.9 seconds left in regulation as Juan Nunez made two free throws.
It looked like the game was heading to a second overtime when Stefan Stefanovic nailed a three-pointer with 1.9 seconds to play. On the ensuing in-bounds play after a timeout, Serbia were given a technical foul as Marko Markovic was ruled to have gone over the sideline, Nunez hit the foul shot and Serbia had one more life as Spain committed a backcourt violation with 1.0 seconds to play. But Ilija Milijasevic missed the potential game-winning three-pointer.
Nunez paced Spain with 19 points, 5 steals, 4 rebounds and 4 assists while Ruben Dominguez chipped in 12 points. Serbia's Matija Belic saw his 28 points and 14 rebounds go to waste with Nikola Radovanovic picking up 12 points and 11 losses.
The four Quarter-Finals losers still have plenty to play for as the fifth placed finisher also gets a ticket to the U17 World Cup.