|14 August 2009|
By Yarone Arbel
Poland shocked Europe one more time and took another giant down with a 51-46 win over Croatia in the second Quarter-Finals of the day at the Omnitel U16 European Championship Men in Kaunas.
A very nervous game on both sides from tip off to end resulted in a low scoring affair, in which Poland proved to have the better nerves.
The win awards the Polish team a spot in the U17 World Championship next year and a meeting tomorrow in the Semi-Finals with the winner of the game between France and the hosts Lithuania.
Michal Michalak finished with 19 points and ten rebounds for Poland, Mateusz Pontika added 12 points. Big guy Przemyslaw Karnowski added seven points and ten rebounds.
Marko Ramljak was the only player for Croatia in double-digits with 16 and eight rebounds but hit only two times out of 13 attempts from distance. Dario Saric had only five points in one hit of 11 attempts from the field, but added 15 rebounds and six steals.
Croatia finished the game with a total of 36 attempts from the arc but hit only six of them.
Their total field goal ratio of 15 out of 72 wasn't much impressive as well.
It took Croatia five minutes to score their second bucket, while Poland already got active, and took an 8-2 lead.
Michalak and Karnowski joined plays on the way to an 18-13 Polish lead at the end of the first quarter.
The nerves played a role as both sides couldn't find a scoring rhythm, but finally Poland saw Michalak and Pontika connect seven points in a row, to write a 29-19 half time lead.
Both teams continued to struggle making points, but Poland was on a more severe drought.
It took them 8:30 minutes to score the first points in the second half and by then Croatia already wrote a 14-0 run, and totally denied the half time Polish lead, to take a 33-29 advantage.
Finally Pawel Spica stole the ball from Saric at mid-court and finished a lay up with a bonus from the line, to give Poland some breathing air.
Filip Matczak followed to put Poland back on top, and added another lay up before the buzzer to complete another 7-0 Polish run right before the buzzer, and set the third quarter score on 36-33.
Smart defense by Croatia prevented Karnowski to be a factor, but it didn't transform to a run at the other end.
Saric played the post and dished out big passes but Ramljak's shots slipped out time after time.
Michalak and Pontika stepped up with big plays, but Ramljak with a great slash and Buovac from mid-range kept the score close, as the teams entered the last two minutes tied at 44-44.
Matczak scored once from the line, and after another Ramljak miss Michalak scored a big shot, 47-44.
Buovac had a chance to tie the game but after his miss Michalak hit twice from the line and left Croatia 23 seconds to close a five point gap.
In a low scoring game as this, five points were too much,