Spain snap Semi-Finals curse, finish France to set date with destiny vs USA
MALAGA (Spain) - Spain wrote a new chapter in their storied history by finally reaching the Final of the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2022, where they will face off against five-time reigning champions United States in front of a packed house in Malaga.
With legends of Spanish basketball such as Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Carlos Jimenez and Felipe Reyes in the stands at Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena, the next generation of Spanish youngsters rose to the challenge and beat France 68-53 to snap a streak of three straight losses in U17 World Cup Semi-Finals from 2012, 2014 and 2016. And their opponents in Sunday's Final will be United States, who eased past Lithuania 89-62 to remain undefeated in the competition's history.
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Spain depth shines through, late run decides it
After three failed attempts to get past the Semi-Finals, Spain reached the Final of the U17 World Cup for the first time as they used a late run to pull away from France 68-53. France trailed by just two points with 6:05 minutes left in the game but managed just two free throws the rest of the way as Spain finished the game on a 15-2 spurt.
Spain really exhibited a strong collective performance in the win. Aday Mara collected 16 points and 6 rebounds while Lucas Langarita had 11 points, Conrad Martinez picked up 10 points and 4 assists, Izan Almansa tallied 10 points and 14 rebounds and Alvaro Folguiras chipped in 9 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks.
"We are a great team playing defense. I am so happy for my teammates," said Izan Almansa, who scored seven of his points in the final 6 minutes to set up Spain's date with destiny against the United States. "Tomorrow we hope we can play our best game and just try to get the gold medal."
France jumped ahead 8-1 as Spain needed nearly 5 minutes to score a first basket. The French led 17-13 after 10 minutes. The home side took the lead for the first time at 20-19 and led 24-19 before heading into the locker room up 32-30.
France began to impose their will a bit more on offense in the third quarter and took a six-point cushion at 48-42 before leading 48-46 after 30 minutes. It remained tight until the final 6 minutes when the Spaniards were pushed by the home crowd and shut down France's offense and finally secured their first U17 World Cup medal.
"Very good game, tough game. I think the best team won today," France coach Bernard Faure said. "Spain played good basketball. They shared the ball. We could have won if we had run. But we didn't get enough defensive rebounds. My playmakers played too slowly. To win today, we needed to be our best. This was not our best."
Killian Malwaya was the only French player in double figure with 11 points and Faure's men hit just 2-of-19 from long range (11 percent) and will next take on Lithuania for bronze.
"It will be difficult to play for third place because this game was hard for us - physically and mentally. Lithuania is a good team. They can play zone defense, full court defense. We will need to prepare and play well," the French coach added.
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USA waste no time, roll past Lithuania from early on
United States moved to within one step of a sixth undefeated title as they collected a comfortable 89-62 victory over Lithuania in the first Semi-Final. The Americans jumped out to a 17-2 lead and never looked back. Jeremy Fears led the way with 18 points and 5 assists; Karter Knox scored 14 points; and Ron Holland contributed 7 points 10 rebounds and 6 assists.
"We got off to a great start - it was one of our better starts in the tournament. Even though the pace slowed down a little bit we were able to get it back going. We forced the tempo and wanted to speed them up and we were able to do a great job with that," said USA head coach Sharma White, whose team forced 21 turnovers and held Lithuania to 32 percent shooting.
Lithuania needed more than 2 minutes to score their first basket and by the time they scored again United States had opened a 17-2 lead and forced the Europeans into 1-of-10 shooting and 6 turnovers. The lead was 21-7 after 10 minutes.
Lithuania started to execute on offense and slowed the USA attack and pulled within eight points at 27-19 but the advantage was 38-21 at the break. Lithuania were only able to twice trim the margin to 13 points in the third quarter and trailed 64-41 after three quarters. The lead never dipped below 19 points in the final frame.
Vytautas Zygas picked up 17 points and 4 assists and Petras Padegimas tallied 11 points and 11 rebounds for Lithuania, who will take on France on Sunday for the bronze medal.
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Serbian Stankovic just misses second triple-double in history
Serbia's Ognjen Stankovic nearly made history in Serbia's 105-75 win over Poland in Classification 5-8 as he collected 20 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists and 5 steals - just missing out on becoming the second player in U17 World Cup history to record a triple-double. Aljosa Jankovic tallied 15 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists for Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Domincan Republic in 2016 for the only triple-double in the competition's legacy.
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Australia nearly waste 19-point lead, knock off Slovenia
Australia will be shooting for fifth place after nearly wasting a huge lead but pulling away for a 86-74 win over Slovenia in Classification 5-8. Australia were up by 19 points in the third quarter before Slovenia fought back within 2 points with 4 minutes to play. But the Oceania powerhouse ended up getting the win thanks to Rocco Zikarsky's 22 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks.
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Stat of the day
44 percent - as in France's free throw shooting as they converted only 11-of-25 from the foul line. Fourteen missed free throws in a game they lost by 15 points.
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Highlight of the day
Not much to say about this ... great play and great production by NextGen Hoops.
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Picture(s) of the day
Basketball royalty in Malaga as the likes of Juan Carlos Navarro, Carlos Cabezas, Alex Mumbru (top picture from left to right), Pau Gasol and Carlos Jimenez (bottom picture middle and right) gathered to watch the game.
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- Canada locked up a spot in the ninth place game after defeating Argentina 91-80.
- Egypt will be Canada's next opponent after knocking off New Zealand 82-54.
- Japan beat Lebanon 77-71 for their first win and will play for 13th place.
- Dominican Republic will face Japan after defeating Mali 62-52.
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Spain vs United States
Third place game
France vs Lithuania
Australia vs Serbia
Slovenia vs Poland
Canada vs Egypt
Argentina vs New Zealand
Japan vs Dominican Republic
Lebanon vs Mali