2012 Year In Review: U18 Men

21 December 2012

Gold Medalists Croatia
Croatia spoiled the party of co-hosts Lithuania, taking their second gold medal at an U18 European Championship

The paths of the two co-hosts of the Samsung U18 European Championship 2012, Latvia and Lithuania, crossed in the quarter-finals with the latter coming out on top, 65-53 and advancing to the battle for the medals.

The fairy-tale ending the Lithuanians were expecting though did not materialise in the end, as another historical basketball nation spoiled the co-hosts' dream guided by the star of a crowned young prince.

Russia, Serbia and Croatia, in addition to Lithuania, advanced from the quarter-finals and faced off in two semi-finals in Vilnius arena that were hard-contested, tight affairs.

Russia played excellent defence and took a 35-24 lead at half-time, but Croatia started chipping away at the deficit in the third and came up with a big final quarter to claim a 61-57 comeback win.

Dario Saric collected his fourth double-double in the tournament, with 24 points and 13 rebounds, to cancel out Mikhail Kulagin's 15-point, 13-rebound effort and secure Croatia their passage to the gold medal game.

In the second semi-final, the hosts were off to a better start but Serbia balanced proceedings in the second quarter and Lithuania were holding only a fragile three-point advantage at the interval.

The Serbians took it up one notch in the clutch and not only levelled the scores but also took an eight-point lead midway through the final quarter.

The Baltic side however, as well as the 3,000-strong home crowd, had a little bit more left in the tank.

They pulled out all the stops and used a 13-3 run in the final four minutes to reach a 69-67 victory and punch their ticket to the final.

Simas Raupys of Lithuania led all scorers with 18 points while Serbia's Nikola Jankovic had a 17-point, 13-rebound double-double in a losing effort.

The bronze medal game between Serbia and Russia was a back-and-forth affair up until the end of the third quarter, when the Balkan side used an 8-1 run to finally get some breathing space.

With both sides trying to out-defend each other in the fourth, Serbia held on to clinch a 66-56 win and celebrate earning a place on the podium.

Dario Saric (Croatia)
Dario Saric was voted MVP of the tournament

Ahead of the big final, Saric must have caught sight of the trophy and gold medal patiently awaiting the winners and decided to take them home with him.

Lithuania tried their best, but they simply had no way of limiting the Croatian whiz-kid, who destroyed all of their defensive plans with 39 points on 15-of-24 shooting from the floor and added 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks, leading his side to an 88-76 victory.

Tomislav Gabric was infallible in 17 minutes on the floor to collect 14 points and Jakov Mustapic scored 11 points and dished out five assists in Croatia's gold-medal triumph.

Unsurprisingly, Saric also walked away with the tournament MVP award, with Serbian duo Nikola Radicevic and Nikola Jankovic, Lithuania's Marius Grigonis and Russian Mikhail Kulagin joining him on the All Tournament Team.



The two finalists and the winner of the bronze medal game at the U18 European Championship Division B in Sarajevo would be rewarded with promotion to Division A.

In the semi-finals, hosts Bosnia and Herzegovina edged out England 64-63 after a dramatic encounter while the Czech Republic breezed past Finland, 85-63.

England took control of the bronze medal game right from the tip-off and kept Finland at arm's length throughout to clinch a 73-59 victory, earn third place on the podium and, most importantly, promotion to Division A.

Both finalists had already secured promotion to the top flight but Bosnia and Herzegovina had their sights set on gold and prevailed 76-64 over the Czech Republic.

Tournament MVP Jusuf Nurkic had a double-double in points (18) and rebounds (11) and an imperial five blocks in the final and was joined on the All Tournament Team by his team-mate Adin Vrabac, Finland's Joonas Lehtoranta, the Czech Republic's Radovan Kouril and England's Luke Nelson.


U18 Final Highlights: Lithuania v Croatia



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