AUCKLAND (FIBA U19 World Championship) – The ninth FIBA U19 World Championship have been run and won, and the USA have claimed the gold medal for the first time since 1991.
The US faced a tough battle in the gold medal game, but survived a second half comeback from Greece to record an 88-80 victory, after leading 46-30 at half time.
As with the USA’s semi final, they could not match their opponents after half time, as Greece won the third quarter 21-14. They could have been much closer after missing 7 free throws in the term.
A spectacular alley-oop finish from Arnett Moultrie capped a 5-0 USA run in the first 74 seconds of the final period to extend the lead to 14, and although Greece challenged on numerous occasions and closed to 8 points with 7:51 to play, the USA had the answers.
When Klay Thompson and Ashton Gibbs hit back-to-back triples the lead was 73-61 and the gold medal decided.
Leading scorers for the USA were Tyshawn Taylor (18 points, 6 assists, 5 steals), Gibbs (13 points), Thompson (10 points, 3 blocks) and Moultrie (10 points, 9 rebounds).
For Greece, Kostas Sloukas (17 points, 4 assists, 4 steals), Nikolaos Pappas (16 points), Leonidas Kaselakis (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Kostas Papanikolaou (12 points, 5 rebounds) all tried gallantly.
It is the USA’s fourth triumph at the FIBA U19 World Championship, while for Greece, their silver medal joins the gold they won in 1995 in Athens, and the bronze they secured in Thessaloniki in 2003.
The USA and Greece were joined on the podium by bronze medallist Croatia. Tournament MVP Mario Delas scored 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, after trailing by as much as 9 points.
Australian captain Matthew Dellavedova (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) was almost the hero for his team, but his fifth and final foul with scores tied and just over a minute to play was a key moment.
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.
Delas (28 points, 12/15 fg, 5 rebounds) received outstanding support from Toni Prostran (21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) and Tomislav Zubcic (16 points, 6 rebounds).
For Australia, Cody 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 Brock Motum (10 points, 5 rebounds) were also strong contributors.
In the day’s first game, Canada proved too good for France, taking 7th position with a 82-74 win.
Mangisto Arop (16 points, 7/12 fg) and Cory Joseph (18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) again led Canada, who used an 11-4 run to begin the third quarter, and a 15-7 streak at the start of the last period to create their final 8-point margin.
For France, who claim 8th position in the tournament with a 3-6 record, Nicolas Lang (19 points, 5/10 3pfg), Alexis Tanghe (16 points) and Christophe Leonard (15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) led the scoring.
Argentina celebrated claiming 5th place enthusiastically with their supporters, after extending an 11-point half time lead to defeat Puerto Rico, 92-70.
Argentina were led by Andres Landoni (17 points), Juan Fernandez (12 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists), Mateo Gaynor (14 points) and Luciano Gonzalez (12). The South Americans finish the tournament with a 5-4 record.
Puerto Rico’s best were again Jio Fontan (19 points, 6 assists) and Mike Rosario (21 points), as their team finished the tournament in 6th place with 5 wins and 4 losses.
So the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand has come to an end, with the USA, Greece and USA the medallists. As a confederation, the Americas were the big winners with four teams in the top 7.
The tournament returns in 2011, and if it has the drama, skill, speed and athleticism of this championship, basketball fans are once again in for a treat.