14 - 22
July 2018
Players of Croatia celebrate after winning Semifinal match against Germany
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Unstoppable Croatia knock out Germany, join Israel in Final

CHEMNITZ (FIBA U20 European Championship 2018) – There continues to be no stopping Croatia at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2018 in Chemnitz, with the Damir Rajkovic-coached side knocking out tournament hosts Germany in the Semi-Finals for a chance to play Israel in Sunday's title clash.

Kresimir Ljubicic and Mate Kalajzic scored 18 points each, as Croatia outlasted Germany 69-61 in a low-scoring contest that saw the lead change hands 12 times before settling in Croatian hands for good.

Mateo Colak was the only other double-digit scorer for Croatia with 14 points, while Nils Hassfurther and Filip Stanic had 15 and 11 points, respectively, for Germany.

The guests made the game-winning 8-0 run late in the fourth quarter, turning a 56-all tie with four minutes remaining into a 64-56 advantage with just a minute on the clock.

“The feeling is extraordinary. I don’t know what to comment or how to put this into words," one of the team's top scorers, Ljubicic, paused. "We have worked so hard for the past one and a half months, we have such an amazing communication and trust within the team. It's simply a beautiful feeling."

By qualifying for the Final, Croatia already locked in the first-ever podium finish for the country at the U20 age category. "This is going to be the first U20 medal for Croatia and we wish for it to be a golden one. This is our last step at youth level, and this success will serve as a launch pad going into the new season and give us all a lot of confidence, especially the guys who did not enjoy a lot of playing time last season," Ljubicic explained.

Israel claimed the other ticket to the Final in a less dramatic fashion, routing France 83-57 behind Michael Brisker's 18-point effort and a 17-point contribution from Yovel Zoosman.

Deni Avdija chipped in with 15 points and 7 rebounds, while Gil Beni added 11 points for the Israelis, who will play for gold for the second year in a row after falling to Greece in last year's edition of the tournament.

"It's an amazing feeling," said Miron Ruina, one of the four players who were on the roster last summer as well. "We played great defense, we played together. That's why it's so much fun. If we play like this, we can win against anyone. We are focused on ourselves before the Final. It would mean everything to me to win gold, it would mean the world."

On the other end of the standings, Sweden and Greece preserved their chances of staying up in Division A with wins over Romania and Iceland.

Elijah Clarance set a new personal best in Chemnitz with 27 points, as the Swedes inscribed an 80-72 victory over Romania, while Greece bounced back after Thursday's upset against Great Britain with a one-sided 104-86 win over Iceland.

Greece and Sweden will now play it out for 13th place on Sunday, with the winner preserving Division A status for next year and the losing side dropping down to Division B.

In Saturday's other games, Turkey defeated Italy 91-80, Serbia blew out Spain 89-70, Lithuania topped Montenegro 76-58, while Great Britain got an 82-66 win over Ukraine.