Crucial tests ahead for FIBA last four

Jay Asser 07:58 14/08/2014
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Title favourites: The US (white) have put in a dominating performance so far in the tournament but insist that they will not take any team for granted going forward

The FIBA U17 World Champion­ship has been trimmed down to the top eight teams, with the quarter-finals scheduled for today (Thurs­day) at Hamdan Sports Complex.

The four countries that finished top their respective groups are US, France, Puerto Rico and Ser­bia. Australia and Canada also ad­vanced to the last eight after finish­ing 2-1 in Group B, while China and Spain secured upset wins to make it to the quarter-finals.

Heavy favourites US have cruised in the competition so far, winning by an average margin of 49 points in their four games. They comfort­ably lead the tournament in scoring with 107 points per contest, nearly 19 points ahead of second-place Canada.

Even so, US coach Don Showalter is refusing to take any team lightly, especially their next opponent Chi­na, who feature the highest scorer in the tournament in Yanhao Zhao at 22.3 points per game.

“I think every team brings some­thing different, and in international competition you just never know what’s going to happen,” Showalter said. “We’re certainly going to stay focused and not take anyone for granted.”

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico led Group C with an undefeated 3-0 record, but had problems against a winless Egypt who nearly stole a win in their overtime thriller.

But for coach Daniel Ortiz, playing in the only overtime game in the tournament to this point will pre­pare them for their next challenge against Australia.

The Boomers held off Greece as centre Isaac Humphries recorded a double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds. He finished with only one block, but influenced a number of Greece drives to the rim with his presence alone.

Puerto Rico, however, have big men who can space the floor and cause problems for Australia, namely Arnaldo Toro who leads the team with 16 points per game.

“Our advantage is that our play­ers can work inside and shoot out­side,” said Puerto Rico guard Ivan Gandia.

In the other games, Canada will have their hands full against unbeaten Serbia after blowing out Angola in the last round.

The final contest pits two estab­lished nations with France facing Spain. France are one of the better offensive teams in the tournament and the most efficient long-range shooting team at 36.1 per cent from beyond the arc.

Spain are coming off one of their best efforts after rebounding from a 1-2 showing in group play to take down Argentina.

The World Cham­pionship continues tomorrow with the final four teams clash­ing to reach the gold medal game. 

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