Fans in Liepaja were treated to a third instalment of the Dario Saric show on Saturday, with the Croatia forward recording a 32-point, 13-rebound double-double
By Jared Grellet
Dario Saric recorded a 32-point, 13-rebound double-double to take Croatia to a 74-63 victory over Russia at the Samsung U18 European Championship in the final game in Group D action.
Going past 25 points for the third time in as many games, Saric's athleticism at both ends of the court proved the difference between two teams otherwise evenly matched.
Croatia and Russia exchanged blows through the opening 15 minutes but when coach Aleksandr Chernov gave playmaker Mikhail Kulagin a breather midway through the second frame, Croatia were able to open up a 10-point lead.
However, with Kulagin returning to the court, the deficit was back to four at the half.
In an explosive start to the second half Saric cut loose, scoring 11 points in just over five minutes to give Croatia an 18-point buffer.
In an attempt to neutralize Saric, Chernov introduced 2.20 metre Andrey Desyatnikov into the game.
To some extent the ploy worked as Russia once more fought back to be within four points on a Kulagin three-pointer with less than four gone in the deciding quarter.
But four points was as close as Russia were able to come to claiming the lead, as they managed just four points in the final six minutes.
"The confidence is really high in the team and we are so happy to finish at the first team in our group and we must now go step by step to the final," Saric told FIBAEurope.com immediately after the game.
Mislov Brzoja again played the perfect supporting role to Saric with 16 points.