Italy claim top honors in Kaunas
KAUNAS, Lithuania (FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship) – Led by tournament MVP Caterina Gilli, Italy have claimed the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship title in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Playing Czech Republic in Saturday’s Final, Italy were able to go two steps higher on the podium than 12 months previous, leading from tip-off, for the 60-52 win. Despite leading all the way, that didn't mean there were not some nervy moments, as they watched their fourth quarter lead dissipate from 22 to just 3, with three minutes remaining.
Following six previous silvers and six bronzes, this marked their first gold medal.
It had already been an emotional ride for the Italians, who endured nail-biting two-point victories over defending champions France in the Quarter-Finals, and Spain in the Semi-Finals.
MVP Gilli’s crowning moment came in that Semi-Final win, when she recorded a 25-point, 17-rebound double-double. Despite Saturday’s loss, there was some respite for Katerina Zeithammerova, who joined Gilli in the All-Star Five. Also making the team were Turkey's Sude Yilmaz and the Spanish combo of Marta Garcia and Mama Dembele.
Earlier in the day, Spain were able to complete their set of women’s medals for the summer, taking bronze to add to U18 silver and U20 gold. They did so, via a 64-47 win over Turkey, who struggled in their final two games, after the influential Melek Uzunoglu was injured early in their Semi-Final loss to Czech Republic.
Saturday saw further agony and ecstasy when Belgium comfortably accounted for Croatia 64-46 in the Classification Game for 13th to 14th Place. The victory means Belgium retain their Division A status for 2019, whilst Croatia will drop to Division B alongside Netherlands and Serbia, who already learned of their fate 24 hours earlier.
Next summer, they will be replaced by Finland, Greece and Sweden, who earned their promotion by claiming the top three places in the Division B Championship, which was being played simultaneously in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica.
Greece were dominant throughout the tournament, but succumbed to Sweden 51-41 in the Final, despite having previously defeated them during the Group Phase. Finland earned the last spot for promotion by defeating Belarus 86-52, denying Belarus Division A promotion in all three women’s youth categories this summer.
Saturday's Final draws a close on the FIBA European youth championships for 2018.
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