KAUNAS (2012 FIBA U17 World Championship) – Australia reached the Final of the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship to set up a re-match against reigning champions United States with a 83-71 victory over Croatia – handing the European champions their first defeat of the tournament.
Mirko Djeric nailed seven three-pointers in scoring 21 points while Dante Exum poured in 18 points and Jack Purchase hit for 12 in Australia’s sixth straight victory since they lost in the first game of the Championship against the United States 89-67.
The team from Down Under made 15 of 36 three-pointers (42 per cent) and only committed 11 turnovers.
Mario Hezonja’s 28 points and 17 from Marko Arapovic were not enough for Croatia, who will face Spain in the Bronze Medal Game. It will be a re-match of Croatia’s 73-68 victory to secure first place in Group B.
In the Semi-Final, Croatia scored the first six points of the game but Australia came back to go ahead 16-10. Hezonja continued his hot start with 10 points in the first quarter as the Europeans led 24-21.
The Croatians were ahead 31-23 when Djeric drained three three-pointers as part of a 14-0 run for a 37-31 advantage. And the gap was still seven points at the break, 42-35.
The Australians superbly executed their team play in building a 19-point lead, 62-43, on another Djeric triple. With Hezonja scoring eight points in the quarter, Croatia pulled within 11 points. The lead was back to 66-51 after three quarters.
Two break away baskets again pushed the lead to 19 points early in the fourth. But Arapovic and Hezonja would help Croatia twice cut the deficit to seven points – the last time at 78-71 with three minutes to play. But Purchase’s three-pointer with 59 seconds re-established a 12-point lead and decide the game.