|Amedeo Della Valle going for the game-winning shot for Italy against Spain|
Amedeo Della Valle rose from seven meters out and drilled a three-pointer with just five seconds on the clock to gift Italy a 76-73 victory over Spain in Group F at the Sportland U20 European Championship on Monday.
Italy, who were trailing by 11 points with 1:18 left in the third frame, were rewarded for their perseverance and relentlessly fast pace with a fantastic comeback in the final quarter.
The Azzurri, the smallest team in the tournament with just three players reaching two meters of height, resorted to a zone defence for long stretches of the game to close down their paint and in fact they out-rebounded Spain 44-29.
Spain placed Daniez Diez at the high post and dealt with the zone sufficiently well, as the forward was either sinking shots from the top of the key or distributing the ball to his team-mates.
This approach worked so well in fact that when Diez poured in seven consecutive points to give Spain a 59-48 lead just before the end of the third period, 'La Roja' seemed to have finally taken a firm grip on proceedings.
But Italy only know how to move in fifth gear in this tournament and they continued running the open floor at full speed, shooting at the first glance of an open look, no matter what the distance.
Michele Ruzzier sunk two triples either side of the third interval to cut the gap to five points and midway through the final stanza, the frenetic rhythm of the Italians beared an 8-0 run that gave them their biggest lead in the encounter, 71-66.
Spain coach Sito Alonso called a time-out with 24 seconds left on the clock and drew up a play for Jaime Fernandez to received the ball in the corner and shoot a triple - the Estudiantes guard duly obliged and tied the scores at 73.
Della Vale however, always in top gear, received the in-bound pass, charged ahead in the blink of an eye and calmly hit the game winner.
The guard was inspirational for Italy all night long and finished with a game-high 27 points, adding seven rebounds; Ruzzier added 12 points and four assists while Awudu Abass made up for his height disadvantage with passion and energy and brought down a game-high 12 boards for the winners.
Diez finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and two assists while Fernandez had 13 points and four assists for Spain in defeat.