Croatia Punch Last Ticket To Quarter-Finals

15.09.2009

By David Hein

Game Summary

Turning point: Germany led 57-54 but committed turnovers on six straight possessions and went nearly five minutes without a score to hand Croatia the momentum.

Hero: Ukic. The Croatian star continually broke down the German defense, getting to the lane and converting.

Stats: 12 of 26, 20 and 13.  Germany made 12 of 26 three-pointers but shot themselves in the foot with 20 turnovers. Croatia grabbed 13 offensive rebounds.

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Roko-Leni Ukic scored 18 points as Croatia earned the last Quarter-Final berth from the Qualifying Round Group E by holding off Germany 70-68.

The Croatians had four players in double figures and took advantage of Germany making 20 turnovers - including six straight turnovers in the fourth quarter - as they secured fourth place in the group with a 2-3 record.

"Even though we didn't play great basketball, we showed character and we're going to the quarters," said Ukic.

"It was a tough game as both teams wanted to make the quarterfinals. At the end of the game we got a couple of stops and Kresimir Loncar hit a big three-pointer to give us confidence for the next couple of possessions."

Croatia coach Jasmin Repesa praised his team for keeping their nerves when they trailed 57-54 midway through the final quarter.

"We expected a tough game. When we were losing 57-54 we didn't lose our head and in the end we played some tough defense," said Repesa, whose team out-scored Germany 27-6 in points off turnovers and second chance points.

Croatia also received 11 points each from Marko Popovic and Zoran Planinic while Sandro Nicevic added 10 points.

Germany bow out of the tournament despite another spirited fight from Dirk Bauermann's young team.

Heiko Schaffartzik led the way with 18 points - on perfect 6 of 6 shooting - while Patrick Femerling scored 15 points and Jan Jagla had 11 points.

"It was just a bad ending to a great, wonderful summer. I thought that we would have deserved to win the game.
But they deserved to win the game because they made the big plays offensively and defensively," said Bauermann.

"I am very proud of this team. We gained a lot of respect with this young team. We very positively surprised a lot of people. Today we are extremely disappointed. We can be proud of what we achieved."

After Germany scored the first basket of the game, Croatia scored 10 straight and led 14-3 after five minutes. It was 16-7 when Schaffartzik and Jagla each hit two three-pointers in a four-possession stretch for a 19-18 German lead.

Croatia however were ahead 20-19 after one period.

Germany again struggled out of the blocks in the second quarter, committing three straight turnovers and not scoring a basket until Steffen Hamann's lay-up nearly four minutes into the period.

Croatia began pulling away again, opening a 37-27 advantage with a minute left in the half. Jagla nailed another triple and a layup at the buzzer to bring Germany within 37-32 at intermission.

In the third period, Croatia were held scoreless for nearly four minutes but Germany were only able to climb within 43-41. Lucca Staiger nailed a triple and then Hamann hit a driving layup just before the buzzer to give the Germans a 50-49 lead after three quarters.

Germany were able to push the cushion to three points after Staiger's triple to make it 57-54. But Bauermann's troops committed turnovers on six straight possessions.

Femerling's free throws ended the nearly five-minute drought and had Germany trailing just 61-59 with two minutes to play. But Loncar nailed a big triple to make it 64-59 and after Planinic pushed the gap to 67-62, Schaffartzik hit an impossible trey. But Demond Greene missed a triple with five seconds left which could have made it 69-68.


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