Spain Edge Italy For Final Berth

17 August 2013

U16 MEN

8. Rafael Blanco (Spain)
Rafael Blanco elevates during Spain's celebrations after a hard-fought semi-final win over Italy

Spain squeezed into the final of the U16 European Championship Men as they edged out Italy in a thrilling semi-final.

A tight game went down to the wire, victory not secured until Pablo Perez sank a pair of free throws to give his team a six-point lead - their largest of the game - with 13 seconds left.

The shots took Perez to a team-high 15 points while Ramon Vila had 12 and Xabier Lopez-Arosteguj 11.

Spain held the edge for much of the second half just as Italy had their noses in front in the first 20 minutes.

Andrea La Torre gave Italy their first real separation with a three-pointer that made it 18-13, and although Lopez-Arosteguj immediately replied in kind for Spain, Italy hit six more to lead 24-16 on Lorenzo Bucarelli's lay-up.

They took a 28-22 advantage to the locker-rooms, but Spain set about removing it early in the third quarter, using an 8-2 charge to tie it at 30-30 on Perez's lay-up.

Davide Moretti replied with a three, but the momentum was shifting and a prolonged Italian scoring slump - lasting more than five and a half minutes and stretching two minutes into the fourth quarter - saw Spain capitalise with an 8-0 run putting them 42-38 ahead.

Moretti ended the Italian slump with a three but they could not get back on level terms as Spain's defence held under the basket and Italy's luck ran cold from the perimeter.

Vila's jump-shot gave Spain a 52-47 edge with 86 seconds left but Riccardo Cattapan cut the deficit moments later.

It turned into a battle of free throws, with Perez hitting key shots for Spain.

Moretti and La Torre were both off target with three-pointers as time ticked down, and Perez's last shots of the night were enough to seal victory.

Moretti led Italy with 15 points while La Torre had 10 with nine rebounds and Cattapan scored eight with 10 boards.

Spain now go on to face Serbia for gold, while Italy must beat Greece to claim a medal.

 


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