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No regrets this time for Duran and Turkey
ZARAGOZA (2016 FIBA U17 World Championship) - The leaders of the Turkish team at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship knew a thing or two about losing Semi-Finals at big youth tournaments. Captain Ahmet Can Duran wanted to make sure there would be no regrets in Zaragoza as Turkey finally broke through and now have a chance for ultimate glory.
Duran was part of the 2014 and 2015 Turkey sides which lost at the Last Four stage of the FIBA U16 European Championships. After falling to France 78-65 two years ago, last summer saw a 73-71 defeat at the hands of Lithuania.
"We learned lessons from last year. After the loss against Lithuania, we came back to beat Spain," Duran said. "We regret last year because of the [Semi-Final] game but we didn't want to regret anything this time."
Duran made sure he wouldn't go through another Semi-Final loss by scoring 18 points while also grabbing 14 rebounds and handing out 2 assists in 40:04 minutes of in the 83-79 overtime win over Spain. Turkey also fought back from a 15-point deficit to get the historic win.
"We did this as a team not as individual performers," said the 2.06m big man, who noticed a difference within the team after they fell behind. "We started to play with heart."
Duran also said the team had heavy hearts in Zaragoza in light of the recent terrorism attack back home in Istanbul.
"We feel we are under pressure for our country because terrorism is so bad for us," he explained. "We try to make the people happy. We wanted to win this game so bad."
Next up is a chance at glory as Duran and Co. are the last team standing in the way of four straight undefeated title runs for the USA, who have an all-time record of 29-0 in the competition. Turkey may have lost to the Americans 84-66 in the Group Phase, but the 18-point difference was 27 fewer than the USA's 45.3 average margin of victory in Zaragoza. And the 84 points scored were 23 fewer than the Americans' 107.9 average points per game.
Ahmet Can Duran had 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists agains the USA in their Group Phase clash.
Duran and Turkey know it will not be easy against the Americans. But they know what it will take to stay in the game.
"We have to play smarter and try to control the game at both ends," said Duran, who is his team's third best scorer (11.0 points) and ranks second among all players in rebounding (12.5). "We have to control the rebounds. If we can play under control then we have a chance. Run and gun is not our game."
The Turks also will not shy away from the challenge.
"We will come to the court to win the game. We have to play possession by possession, we have to slow them down offensively, and at the end of the game we will look at the scoreboard," Duran said. "We will do everything to win the title, but we will be happy with second place too."
Second place after all is a historic result - it means the Semi-Final nightmare has ended.