Italy hold on to beat Spain, join Czech Republic in #FIBAU16Europe Final
KAUNAS (FIBA U16 Women's European Championship 2018) - Italy survived a late Spanish game-winner attempt after Czech Republic's stifling defense dominated Turkey in the Semi-Finals.
After a high-octane first quarter, Italy and Spain settled down for a feisty battle which Italy led for the majority and eventually won 62-60, although there were 13 lead changes in total. Italian forward Caterina Gilli proved to be almost unstoppable, with a game-high 25 points and 17 rebounds that played a large part in Italy's dominance of the glass. She added a pair of blocks in an inspirational performance.
Frontcourt partner Meriem Nasraoui was a huge factor when her team struggled in the third quarter, and she scored a vital bucket in the last two minutes before Giulia Natali hit her only shot of the game to put Italy five points ahead.
Mama Dembele pulled up and hit a three to make things nervous, and when Italy turned it over in the last 10 seconds, hearts were in mouths. But Alejandra Sanchez's three-point attempt rimmed out and Italy scrambled the rebound away to spark wild celebrations.
Italy will play Czech Republic in Saturday's Final after the Czechs broke open a low-scoring Semi-Final 48-37 with a dominant third quarter, holding Turkey without a field goal for the entire period to convert a six-point lead into 18.
Turkey were hindered after star forward Melek Uzunoglu injured her ankle within the first two minutes and sat for the remainder of the game. The Czechs did not have any player in double digits for scoring, and they shot less than 30% for the game, but they've made their mark during the tournament with an intense, scrambling defensive scheme, and Turkey could find no answer.
Russia and France will meet to decide fifth place in the tournament after convincing wins over Hungary and Poland respectively, while Latvia downed hosts Lithuania in their derby match - they will play Germany to decide ninth place.
Netherlands and Serbia suffered relegation to Division B, only Serbia's third relegation at any level in their illustrious history. Croatia and Belgium held on in a pair of frenetic encounters that both came down to the final minute - they will meet on Saturday to decide the third relegation spot.