Greece crowned U20 European champions in front of sold-out home crowd
CRETE (FIBA U20 European Championship) - Spurred on by a sold-out home crowd, Greece have defeated Israel 65-56 to be crowned FIBA U20 European Championship 2017 champions.
They were joined on the podium by France, who defeated Spain 72-58 earlier in the evening to wrap up the bronze medals.
Led by tournament MVP Vasileios Charalampopoulos, Greece used the crowd of more than 5,000 to drive them back into the game after Israel took the upper-hand across the opening exchanges. But, with their nerves settled, Greece surged in the second quarter, taking the lead for good on a Charalampopoulos three, just seconds before the half-time buzzer.
It was almost a case of deja-vu for Charalampopoulos, having also earned MVP honors on home soil at U18 level in 2015, again taking Greece all the way to gold.
Joining Charalampopoulos on the All-Star Five was teammate Antonios Koniaris, who led the Greek scoring in the Final with 15 points; tournament assist-leader Tamir Blatt of runners-up Israel; French power forward Amine Noua; and standout Icelandic big man Tryggvi Hlinason, who took his team to an historic Quarter-Final showing.
At the other end of the table, there was relief for Italy and heartbreak for Slovenia, with the Italians holding of their eastern neighbors 69-52 in the Classification Game for 13th Place, to retain their Division A status for 2018. Slovenia will now be demoted along with Latvia and Czech Republic, who already learned of their fate a day earlier.
Next year, they will be replaced by Romania, Croatia and Great Britain, who claimed the top-three spots in Division B, which was being played at the same time in Oradea, Romania, making it a special night for the home fans in both divisions. Romania rode the support of their home fans to defeat Croatia 80-67 in the Final, whilst Great Britain saw off Russia 81-65 to take third spot on the podium.
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