“Ukraine is a very strong contender. I am not satisfied with the way my team played, but this victory is very important for us.” –Jasmin Repesa (Croatian coach)
Croatia defeated Lithuania 80-75 to win the U18 European Basketball Championships in a tournament that highlighted the potential of Croatian basketball, particularly Dario Šarić. Šarić had scored 16 of the team’s 31 points as they led by nine midway through the second quarter before he picked up his third foul and had to be subbed. Lithuania fought back and took the lead early in the 3rd before their star Marius Grigonis got into foul trouble and Croatia went on a 10-0 run. Šarić would re-enter the game as Croatia held their lead and went on the lift the trophy, largely due to Dario’s efforts.
Highlights of the final
“It’s the biggest thrill of my life. The feeling is great. I just want to thank my team for their performance in the finals. This means a lot to me. We’ve practice every day together and fought for this moment and this is very big. ” –Dario Šarić
Dario Šarić rockin’ the Euro cut
If Ante Tomić, Bojan Bogdanović, and Co can’t make the NBA, Dario Šarić will be the next Croatian star. Šarić was voted tournament MVP by all 15 coaches after the final. He led the tournament with 25.6 points per game and came up huge in the final to score 39. The 6’9 forward also hauled in 10.9 rebounds per game. He has been signed by Bilbao Basket from KK Zagreb and many NBA scouts are keen on drafting the 18 year old. Draft Express projects him to be picked late in the first round of the 2013 draft.
Šarić in action
Dario hopes to join the senior side as they are in the midst of qualification for Eurobasket 2013. Croatia must finish in the top two in their group of five in order to qualify, which shouldn’t be too difficult, with Ukraine being their toughest opposition. They crushed Cyprus, one of the weakest teams in the world, in their first game by a score of 93-38, with Croatia outscoring the Cypriots 28-3 in the final quarter. Bojan Bogdanović led the team with 17 points. Ante Tomić is not with the team presumably because of an injury, but the 7’2 center will be playing for Barcelona this season as he hopes to improve his stock and get his shot in the NBA.
Bojan Bogdanović blocks Kyryl Natyazhko
Croatia played against Ukraine today in Kiev. They won 80-79 in an overtime thriller that could have been put to bed at the free throw line. The game was back and forth throughout as neither side was able to sustain the lead and Krunoslav Simon scored with 52 seconds remaining to give Croatia a two point lead. Stiven Bertt equalized for the Ukrainians and on the final possesion, Roko Ukić was fouled and went to the line with an opportunity to win the game. With just two seconds left, he choked and missed both shots to send the game to overtime. Ukraine had a two point lead with 19 seconds to go in overtime as Croatia used a timeout to set up a play. They found Bojan Bogdanović for three with 5 seconds to go and he nailed it to give Croatia the win and save Ukic from taking the blame. Bogdanovic led the team with 20 points and 5 assists, while Simon added 15, and Damir Markota had 14 points and 3 steals. Croatia’s next game is on Friday against Hungary, and will be played in Osijek.