29 June, 2019
07 July
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Milestone-setters Mali march on; USA, France and Lithuania also into Semi-Finals

HERAKLION (Greece) - Mali etched their name in the annuls of history as they became the first African team to reach the Semi-Finals of a FIBA global competition by advancing to the final four of the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 along with France, Lithuania and United States.

Mali historic ride continues

By even reaching the Quarter-Finals, Mali had already secured the continent's best-ever finish at the U19 World Cup. But Alhadji Dicko's team shrugged off an early deficit and extended a lead out to 20 points in picking up an 84-74 victory over Puerto Rico.

"It was a huge win for us. Of course we had already made history but we are winners and we want to win every game," said Mali guard Martin Diakite, who was part of the team in 2017 that did not win any of their seven games in finishing 16th.

"It was tough. We were down but we never gave up, not even when we were not playing well. We had a lot of turnovers (29) but we never let the game go and we are very proud of this win."

Mali had previously finished 15th in 2007 and 16th two years ago while the previous best result for an African team was 11th - done three times by Nigeria and twice by Egypt.

Mali proved just too big for Puerto Rico with a 62-47 rebound advantage including 25 offensive rebounds. Fousseyni Drame had 22 points, Oumar Ballo collected 21 points, 17 rebounds and 4 blocks and Siriman Kanoute scored 16 points.

France get a date with Mali in the Semi-Finals

Mali's date in the Semi-Finals will come against France, who knocked off Canada 85-80 in their Quarter-Finals showdown, which was actually a repeat of the 2017 final eight matchup, won by Canada en route to the title. The French prevailed this time around thanks to Joel Ayayi collecting 25 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Five Canadians finishing in double figures was not enough and the reigning champs were dethroned. 

Lithuania show mastery of Serbs again

The other half of the bracket saw 2011 champs Lithuania come up with an upset, knocking off Serbia 92-85 in overtime. The Serbs came into the tournament as FIBA U18 European Championship 2018 winners but they were actually beaten last summer by Lithuania in the first game of the tournament.

Lietuva pulled off some more magic as Rokas Jokubaitis tallied 21 points, 4 rebounds and 10 assists, Erikas Venskus scored 19 points with 7 rebounds and Klaidas Metrikis picked up 15 points. Metrikis was one of three Lithuanians who fouled out and another player had four fouls.

But Lithuania overcame a 53-38 rebounding disadvantage, including 22 offensive rebounds for Serbia, who turned the ball over 18 times - 10 of them alone by Filip Petrusev, who did have 16 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Marko Pecarski poured in 25 points with 11 rebounds and Uros Trifunovic had 16 points, including a three-pointer to force overtime.

United States race by Russia

Lithuania's dance partner in the Semi-Finals will be United States, who rolled past Russia 95-80. Four Americans scored in double figures, paced by Reggie Perry's 28 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks while Scott Barnes and Jeremiah Robinson both had 13 points and Tyrese Haliburton chipped in 10 points, 7 assists and 5 steals as Bruce Weber’s team looks to clinch the country's seventh U19 crown.