Paolo Marinelli produced his biggest performance at the right time for Croatia, picking up nine assists to go with 22 points
Turning Point: Two big baskets and an assist inside from Karlo Zganec in the final four minutes proved enough to squash Russia's furious comeback. Game Hero: Paolo Marinelli produced his best performance of the tournament to score 22 points and hand out nine assists. Stats Don't Lie: Croatia's true team effort produced 19 assists, eight more than Russia's one-on-one heavy approach.
Croatia withstood an aggressive second half comeback to upset Russia 82-72 and advance to the semi-finals of the U18 European Championship in Riga, Latvia.
Russia came into the quarter-final as the top-seeding out of Ventspils; and Croatia, subsequently the bottom out of Liepaja, but as evidenced by the early action, the seedings meant little to a fired-up Croatian outfit.
Six different scoring contributions paced Croatia in the first quarter as they overcame a slow start by attacking the rim, drawing ten fouls and sending three starters to the bench in early foul trouble, including star Alexander Martynov.
Russia's leading scorers Martynov and Viacheslav Fedorchenko came to life in the second, but even their best efforts (19 of Russia's 27 first-half points) were not enough to quell Croatia's run.
11 assists and nine points to Paolo Marinelli enabled the Croatians to score 44 points and take a 15-point lead into the major break.
Russia took a more aggressive approach following the half, attacking the basket at every opportunity and sending important Croatian big man Marko Arapovic to the bench with his fourth foul midway through the third term. The Russians threatened numerous times to cut the lead down to single-digits, eventually getting there when Fedorchenko made two free throws in the final seconds to finally put his team within reach.
Russia stormed home in the final quarter as Martynov found his stroke. Eight points cut the Croatian lead down to just six before Zganec stepped in, ending the Russian return with two big baskets and an assist as Croatia ran out to 10-point win.
Marinelli's big game was supported by 15 points and 11 rebounds from Zganec while Arapovic and Mazalin chipped in 12 and 11 points respectively.
Fedorchenko led Russia with 22 points and nine rebounds and Martynov added 19 points.