AUCKLAND (FIBA U19 World Championship) - Mario Delas has carried Croatia to the bronze medal at the FIBA U19 World Championship in New Zealand, scoring 24 of his 28 points after half time as his team held off a desperate Australia, 87-81.
Delas scored 9 points in the gripping last quarter, including a big offensive rebound and two free throws with 1:11 remaining when Australia had drawn level, 79-79.
Australian captain Matthew Dellavedova (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) was almost the hero for Australia, single-handedly leading his team back from an 8 point deficit in the second quarter, and then threatening to take the game over in the final quarter when his team’s hopes looked gone.
His fifth and final foul with scores tied and just over a minute to play was a key moment, and from there Croatia scored 8 points to 2, including a huge three pointer from Ivan Batur, his first field goal since 6:44 to play in the first quarter.
The game started with both teams trading baskets, but as in their semi final game, Australia lapsed in the final moments of the first period. Four points from Tomislav Zubcic and a late three pointer from Sime Olivare gave Croatia a 28-20 lead at the first break.
Dellavedova then stepped up, recording 7 points and a steal in the first 3:01 of the second period to bring his side within one point. There were nine lead changes for the remainder of the quarter, but half time saw that same 1-point lead to Croatia, 46-45.
When Delas scored the first 9 Croatian points of the third quarter his team led 55-47. Despite the efforts of Cody Ellis and Brock Motum, Croatia still led 66-60 at three quarter time.
Croatia extended their lead to 9 points early in the final period, but two driving baskets from Jason Cadee helped Australia back to 66-69, from where Dellavedova made his mark.
Ultimately, though, it was Delas (28 points, 12/15 fg, 5 rebounds) and Croatia who triumphed to claim the bronze medal. Delas received outstanding support from Toni Prostran (21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) and Tomislav Zubcic (16 points, 6 rebounds).
For Australia, Ellis was outstanding defensively and finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. Mitchell Young (15 points, 6 rebounds), Ryan Broekhoff (11 points, 7 rebounds) and Motum (10 points, 5 rebounds) were also strong contributors.
Croatia finish the tournament with a 7-2 record, as do fourth-placed Australia.
They said :
Mario Delas, Croatia captain :
“First of all, they (Australia) are great guys, thanks to them for everything, because the whole tournament you can talk to them about anything. They play very hard and physical, but that’s basketball. Outside the court they are different.
We have them beat two or three times. But they come back and we play bad offence. We have to beat them over and over again! But after all this we won, so I am happy. It’s amazing. Because we are a small country, nobody expects us to do this well.
First half I make three fouls, and my head is I don’t know where. I said to myself, 20 minutes, this is the last 20 minutes of the tournament, you going to be sorry after if you lose. I shoot once, twice, and after that everything I shoot goes in. I surprised myself!
We came here to win a medal. But I could not expect the fans, we thank them for everything, they were a big part of this.”
Cody Ellis, Australia :
“I think the boys played really well. We came out fired up. Tough loss, but we come away from this just amazed at how well we did. We came together really well as a group, and I am just really proud of the boys.
That’s the Australian way, never given up, regardless of whether you are losing by one, or you are losing by 50.
Those guys (Croatia) are a great bunch of guys and a great bunch of basketballers.
I can’t wait to hopefully get the opportunity to play for them (Australian men’s team) some day, this has been amazing.”