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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