Spain End Croatian Hopes In Classic

16 August 2013

U16 MEN

14. Lovro Mazalin (Croatia), 7. Tomeu Rigo (Spain), 10. Santiago Yusta (Spain)
Pure joy and total frustration can be so close: Lovro Mazalin can't believe Croatia's medal campaign has ended while Santiago Yusta hugs his teammate to celebrate Spain's unlikely triumph

Spain claimed a huge scalp as they ended the title hopes of Croatia in a thrilling quarter-final at the U16 European Championship Men.

In a finish worthy of classic status, Spain saw a 20-point lead evaporate to almost nothing at the death but Croatia missed two chances to tie it in the final seconds as Spain clung on to reach the semi-finals.

It was Croatia's first loss in a tournament they bossed through the first two rounds, and the upset win sparked joyous celebrations on the Spanish side with their coaches leaping about the court arm-in-arm.

Croatia will reflect on a dismal second quarter when they managed just five points, allowing Spain to take a 36-21 lead at half-time.

Their advantage was 48-28 when Xabier Lopez-Arosteguj sank a three-pointer with 6:30 to go in the third quarter, but Croatia are too good a team to go out with such a whimper and they soon set about a stirring rally.

Back-to-back lay-ups from Lovro Mazalin completed a 15-3 spurt that got the deficit back into single figures before the end of the third quarter, but Spain led 56-44 at the start of the final period thanks to Jaume Sorolla and Santiago Yusta.

The fourth quarter proved Spain's turn to suffer. Now they were held to only five points, yet somehow they kept their noses in front all the way.

The force was with Croatia. When Nik Slavica missed a three-pointer Dragan Bender snatched the rebound and Slavica's lay-up made it 56-48.

Slavica then missed another three but this time fought for his own rebound and floated in a short jump-shot to cut to gap to three, 56-53.

Spain had not registered a point in the period before until Ramon Vila split a pair of free throws with 3:38 remaining but after a three-pointer from Mazalin cut the Croatian deficit to one, Lopez-Arosteguj replied in kind to make it 60-56 with two minutes left.

Slavica was called for an offensive foul on the next play as the momentum began to shift once more
Mazalin made it two-point game with 60 seconds left but after Pablo Perez's miss, Spain got a huge block with 17 seconds left.

With eight seconds left on the shot clock Croatia called time out but whatever play was drawn up was never attempted as Slavica failed to make the inbounds play in time - a huge moment Spain punished.
Sergi Garcia split a pair of free throws to give Spain a three-point edge before Mazalin went to the line with eight seconds left.

He swished the first shot and then deliberately missed the second, snatching the rebound, but under huge pressure he twice missed with lay-up attempts before the buzzer sounded.

Lopez-Arosteguj led Spain with 21 points while Santiago Yusta scored 15.

Mazalin had 28 for Croatia, adding 10 rebounds, while Slavica scored 14.

Dragan Bender had 19 rebounds and Ante Zizic, but Spain kept them both to single figures in the scoring column.

 


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