|Matej Buovac led the way for Croatia with 16 points, also adding 2 steals|
Croatia almost threw away a 15-point advantage on Tuesday but managed to hold on for a 66-61 victory over Germany in a must-win clash and stay in contention for a spot in the Sportland U20 European Championship quarter-finals.
The Croatians entered the encounter standing at 0-3 in Group F and fully aware that a loss would knock them out of the race for a top-four finish in the group and, by extension, the last eight of the tournament.
The urgency of the situation was reflected in their tremendous effort on the defensive end, as they outscored Germany 18-9 in the opening quarter and extended their lead to 24-9 shortly after the start of the second stanza.
Germany were shooting only 25 percent from the floor but managed to prevent the gap from spanning out of control by gradually assuming control on the glass and getting points in the paint.
Croatia only led 29-26 at half-time and momentarily lost the lead in the third frame, but looked comfortable again and still destined to pick up the win when they went ahead 55-43 on a Domagoj Samac jumper with 7:33 left on the clock in the final quarter.
But then point guard Alexander Blessig, upset at himself for having wasted the previous possession, drilled his only triple in the game to ignite Germany's most productive five-minutes spurt in the entire clash.
Kenneth Ogbe capped it off with two free throws that gave Germany the lead, 59-58, with just 2:11 left to play in the game.
Antonio Boban replied swiftly with a triple for Croatia and then Germany's David Brembly tied the scores at 61 with a jumper, 48 seconds from time.
Henrik Sirko put Croatia back in the lead, 63-61, with two free throws and then Ogbe split the Croatian defence and drove to the basket.
He missed the lay-up but collected his own rebound and kicked out to Leon Tolksdorf, whose three-point attempt did not drop in.
Incredibly, Germany grabbed the offensive rebound once again and passed to Brembly in the corner, who however also misfired in his effort to win it for his team in regulation.
Juraj Segaric finally secured the ball for Croatia, was fouled immediately and put the game beyond reach with two shots from the foul line eight seconds from the final buzzer.
Croatia's Matej Buovac led all scorers with 16 points, Sirko had 13 points, four boards and five assists and Samac collected a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds; Brembly finished with 13 points and three assists for Germany.