Russia survived another thriller, this time with a win over Italy in a Group C header and an 87-86 score to pull the curtain down on the Preliminary Round of the OMNITEL U18 European Championship at the Lietuvos Rytas Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania on a Saturday night.
Italy tasted the bitterness of a loss for the first time but still finished the group first thanks to goal difference in a three-way tie with Russia and Turkey, all with a 2-1 record. Russia finished 2nd while Turkey is 3rd.
|Alessandro Gentile had a legendary performance of 42 points to go with his 7 rebounds and 7 assists|
Russia almost dropped another game they had in their hands, but after the double overtime loss to Turkey in Day 1, found the right mentality to keep the W inside their pocket.
Vladislav Trushkin topped Russia's scoring sheet with 19 points, Alexander Varnakov added 15 with 6 assists and Sergey Karasev added 13.
For Italy Alessandro Gentile was unstoppable and scored almost half of his team's points. He hit 8 three pointers on his way to a total of 42 points in addition to 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Giovanni Pini and Giorgio Sgobba added 14 each.
A good 2nd quarter gave Russia a safe lead coming into the 2nd half, which lasted until the closing minutes before Italy almost snatched the win in the final minute.
Gentile marked his territory with the first bucket of the game, but Russia scored the next 7 points to example their presence.
The Italian scoring machine hit the first 12 points of his team and the following two baskets were thanks to his assists, enough to enter the first quarter stop behind just 23-22.
Pavel Kuryshkin led Russia on a 10-1 run to open the first double-digit margin of the game, but Gentile was ready with an answer to stop the run before it gets too late.
Nevertheless Trushkin and Karasev with a dunk allowed their team to enter the break with a 10 point lead, 47-37.
Another big shot by Trushkin pushed the difference to 13 early in the 2nd half, but when Pini joined the scoring ace Italy found the way back and moved as close to 60-59 with 13 minutes to play.
Dmitry Kulagin and Trushkin extended the margin to 10 again, hit a couple more three pointers and the team entered the last 3 minutes separated just by 4 points, 81-77.
Russia remained above but Gentile went to the foul line to shoot three times and with 21 seconds made it just a 2 point game, 85-83.
Varnkov showed great nerves by connecting a pair at the other end with 7 ticks to play, enough to secure the win, before Italy cut it down to a point with a shot at the buzzer