Croatia Through To Quarters After Overtime Thriller

31 July 2005

Croatia pulled off a remarkable overtime win against Greece to ensure their qualification to the quarter-final round of the Termosteps U16 European Championship in Spain.

It was a winner takes all match-up between the two teams in the fight for second place in Group C behind Russia, who earlier in the day defeated Iceland 58-74 to secure the top spot.

Greece looked to be in the driving seat after 34 minutes when they held a comfortable 10-point lead, 54-64.

But Croatia staged a desperate comeback in what proved to be a thrilling finish to regular time.

Fran Pilepic (Croatia)
Fran Pilepic
2 free throws from little-used guard Fran Pilepic tied the game at 67-67 with 12 seconds to go, but a clutch bucket from Greece's Georgios Bogris saw them go in front.

With only 7 seconds remaining Croatia's backs were against the wall, but the outstanding Pilepic was not phased and his jump shot hit the back of the net as the buzzer sounded to tie the game 69-69.

While Pilepic kept Croatia alive, it was Karlo Vragovic who led them home.

He scored the first 5 points of the extra period on a basket and foul and lay-up, and Croatia opened up a 74-70 advantage.

Then it was Pilepic's turn to take the spotlight.

First he made 2 free throws and after intercepting an Aris Tatournis pass, he drained a three-pointer to put Croatia up 79-73 with 76 seconds to go.

The shot proved to be the final blow for Greece who endured a disastrous final 5 minutes in which they shot 1/5 from the field and a miserable 2/8 from the free throw line.

Vragovic had 16 points for Croatia, 7 of which he scored in overtime, while Pilepic capped a remarkable 13 minutes of court time with 18 points.

In Group A action, Lithuania had no trouble recording their third win of the championship.

They produced a straightforward 49-78 defeat over Poland to complete an impressive first round peformance.

In fact, the Lithuanians have yet to be truly tested, recording double digit wins in each of their opening 3 games at an average margin of 24 points.

Italy grabbed the second quarter final round spot in the group thanks to an easier than expected win against Israel.

Both sides had 1 victory to their name before the game and Israel ran Lithuania much closer than Italy, losing by 11 points whereas Italy went down by 28.

Nonetheless, it was Italy who looked stronger on the day, using a 10-3 run at the start of the third quarter to establish a double digit lead 37-47 which set up the win.

Italy led by 14 points at the start of the fourth and were not threatened by Israel, finishing up 59-80 winners. 

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