Slovenia, Turkey spring upsets to reach Semi-Finals
IZMIR (Turkey) - Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey all moved a step closer to the FIBA U18 European Championship title after advancing to the Semi-Finals with victories on Thursday.
There was an extra incentive for the last eight winners as they also booked their tickets to next year's FIBA Basketball U19 World Cup with one final spot to be decided over the weekend.
Slovenia opened the day's action with a stunning result as they upset title favorites France with a dramatic 58-57 triumph as Gasper Skorjanc buried the huge three-pointer with 6.2 seconds left on the clock.
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Previously unbeaten France had appeared on course for another win as they opened up a 31-16 lead at half-time. However, the game was then turned on its head as Slovenia took the third quarter 23-10 before still having to fight back from nine points down inside the fourth.
Skorjanc finished with a game-high 14 points including 3-of-5 from three-point range, while France struggled collectively to find their range as they were 3-of-19 from outside.
There were home celebrations to round out the day as Turkey completed the last four lineup; beating Lithuania 64-61 in a fourth quarter comeback in a thrilling finish.
Lithuania - who hadn't lost ahead of the encounter - led 54-47 with 5:00 minutes remaining before the hosts put together a 12-3 run to take the lead late on. Turkey would need a pair of free throws from Arda Sivas to restore their slender advantage before a couple of huge defensive stands including a big rejection from Kerem Konan.
Berke Buyuktuncel had another strong game for Turkey with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in a determined 40-minute effort and his side will meet Slovenia next.
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The excitement followed in the second Quarter-Final as Serbia recovered from a 17-point half-time deficit on their way to beating Israel 68-62. Ilija Milijasevic top scored with 16 points off the bench with Serbia outscoring their opponents 46-23 in the second half for a remarkable turnaround.
Israel could not have asked for a better start as they established a commanding 39-22 advantage going into the interval, but it was a completely different story after the break with Serbia dominating on the glass with 57 rebounds in total in the contest.
Spain had set up a Semi-Final showdown with Serbia after maintaining their own unbeaten record in the tournament by beating Italy 72-59. Izan Almansa posted a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds with Rafael Villar top scoring with 15 points and Jordi Rodriguez contributing a 14-6-8.
Greece defeated North Macedonia 77-61 behind 18 points apiece from Evangelos Zougris and Konstantinos Korkontzelos, while Czech Republic ensured their survival with a 80-62 victory against Great Britain, despite a 32-point effort from Latrell Davis.
The Semi-Finals take place on Saturday as well as the fight to stay in Division A next summer with two decisive 13-16 Classification Games.