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Croatia hold off Italy in thrilling Final to punch Olympic ticket
TURIN (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Croatia took an 84-78 overtime win over Italy in Saturday's Final of the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turin to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
In a game that featured 10 lead changes and 9 ties - most of which came after half-time - the Croats had more left in the tank in the extra session as they defeated the tournament hosts to return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008.
Turning Point: Bojan Bogdanovic hit a three-pointer with 1:14 left in overtime that put Croatia up 80-74 and Italy - with Danilo Gallinari and Luigi Datome forced to watch from the sidelines after fouling out in the fourth quarter - simply struggled to get any baskets.
Stats Don't Lie: Croatia's top players, Bogdanovic and Dario Saric, had big individual performances in the first half, with the former scoring 17 points and the latter grabbing 10 rebounds.
Game Hero: There were several ones for Croatia. Bogdanovic and Saric were key throughout the game but Aleksandar Petrovic's side also got a huge lift off the bench from Darko Planinic who had 13 points and 5 rebounds, 4 of them on the offensive end. Special mention should also go to veteran guard Krunoslav Simon who, after picking up his third foul with 4:15 left in the opening quarter, made amends by hitting three big three-pointers in the third quarter.
The Bottom Line: Croatia end an eight-year absence at the Olympics while Italy will now have to wait another four years, by which time they will be 16 years removed from their silver medal at Athens 2004. With the win, the Croats also got a measure of revenge, having lost to the Italians in the Group Phase on Tuesday.