Turning Point: Croatia scored the first six points to start the fourth quarter and build a 60-52 lead and were just able to keep Greece at bay the rest of the way.
Game Hero: In addition to scoring 24 points, Marko Arapovic added 16 rebounds, four assists and two blocks as well as the two free throws to finish off the game.
Stats Don’t Lie: Croatia out-rebounded Greece 52-39 including 20 offensive rebounds. Croatia also had 20 fast-break points to four for Greece.
They Said It: “It was a tough game. We were so tired after the last game. We won and we are really happy but we think we should have played the final but we are happy. We learned a lot from yesterday. We played good defence today and showed we could do that.” – Dragan Bender
The Bottom Line: After winning the gold in 2012 and the silver in 2013, Croatia finished off their tournament with a bronze medal. Greece missed a chance for their first podium placing since taking the title in 2008.
Croatia bounced back from their semi-final loss to Turkey to beat Greece 75-71 and claim the bronze medal of the 2014 U18 European Championship.
Lovro Mazalin and Arapovic both scored 24 points while Bender finished a rebound short of a triple-double with 14 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.
Vasileios Charalampopoulos scored 20 points, Dimitrios Stamatis had 19 and Konstantinos Oikonomopoulos scored 14 points in the loss for Greece.
Greece came out with the better defence in the first quarter and Charalampopoulos scored six points in opening a 10-5 lead. Croatia would knot the game at 11-11 but Stamatis and Charalampopoulos both hit three-balls in an 8-0 run for Greece to close the first quarter ahead 19-11.
Stamatis’s free throws made it 21-11 to open the second quarter but Croatia played lockdown defense, not giving Greece a basket for the first seven minutes until a dunk by Georgios Tsalmpouris to keep the Greeks ahead 23-18. Croatia reeled off the next 10 points to push ahead 28-23 with a minute left in the half. Oikonomopoulos wound up nailing a three-ball just before the buzzer to keep Greece within 30-28 at the break.
Greece came out of the locker room strong and reclaimed the lead 35-34. The lead went back and forth five times over the next four minutes as neither team could really forge ahead. Mazalin hit a driving layup with 15 seconds to give Croatia the lead 54-52 after three quarters.
Mazalin started the fourth with a three-point play and Bender knocked down a three-ball as Croatia opened up some breathing room at 60-52. Charalampopoulos answered with a triple but Mazalin’s three-pointer made it 65-59 with five minutes left.
And two more free throws by Mazalin had the Croatian advantage up to 69-61. Oikonomopoulos cut the gap to 73-71 with a three-pointer with eight seconds left. But Arapovic sealed the bronze medal with two free throws with seven seconds to play.