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Spain back on the throne after eight years of waiting as MVP Aldama shines in the Final
VOLOS (Greece) - For the first time since 2011, Spain are the FIBA U18 European Championship winners, taking down Turkey 57-53 in a dramatic Final. Slovenia also climbed the podium, their first top-three finish since 2002.
Turkey had a 13-point lead in second half of the Final, but Santi Aldama took over with his 6ft 11in (2.11m) frame, knocking down shots from long distance, getting to the hoop, finishing at the rim to collect a game-high 23 points, all done coming off the bench.
But Aldama's high-scoring output could've gone to waste because Spain had a seven minute long spell without a single field goal made in the final quarter. However, up stepped Oier Ardanza, an unlikely hero, with a pair of free throws, and a put-back layup that made it 55-50 with 38.5 left to play.
Turkey knocked down a quick three-pointer, but could not secure a rebound after Spain's missed free throws with seconds left to play. Usman Garuba went for it, was fouled, then made it a two-possession game from the charity stripe.
FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis and FIBA Executive Director Europe Kamil Novak were on hand to witness Spain's triumph.
Garuba had an 11-point, 14-rebound double-double in the Final, booking himself a place in the All-Star Five, alongside the Most Valuable Player of the tournament in Santi Aldama. Also selected was Turkey's Alperen Sengun, who had 9 points and 11 rebounds in the last game of the program, and Greece's Nikolaos Rogkavopoulos and Slovenia's Ziga Samar rounded up the all-tournament team.
There was more reason for celebration in Slovenia on a warm Sunday night in August. Samar, Gregor Glas and the rest of coach Peter Markovinovic's team put together a 35-14 last quarter, good enough for Slovenia to storm to an 81-57 win over Greece in the battle for the last place on podium. Slovenia's only previous medal came in Germany in 2002, when they lost the Final to Croatia.
..@ziga5samar and Gregor Glas running that backdoor alley oop for two weeks now and it looks better and better 💯. #FIBAU18Europe@kzs_si 🇸🇮— FIBA (@FIBA) August 4, 2019
📝 https://t.co/SI0sruUkmJ pic.twitter.com/P3HJqqL68a
Glas led the scoring with 20 points, Maj Dusanic had 18 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks, Rok Nemanic scored 17 points with 4 steals, and Samar was close to becoming the first player with two triple-doubles at one FIBA U18 European Championship. Real Madrid's point guard finished with 8 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
Slovenia's neighbors also enjoyed a positive finish to the tournament. Croatia defeated Finland 78-66, securing 13th spot in Volos, meaning they will remain in Division A next summer. Finland join the Netherlands and Latvia in Division B.
Meanwhile, new members of Division A are Israel, Poland and Czech Republic, the top three teams from FIBA U18 European Championship 2019, Division B, which was held in Oradea, Romania.