MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Germany will play the United States in the semifinals of the Basketball World Cup, a rematch of an exhibition matchup from earlier this summer where the Americans needed a big rally to win.
Franz Wagner scored 16 points and Germany — the last unbeaten team left in the World Cup — held off Latvia 81-79 in a quarterfinal game on Wednesday, pulling away in the fourth quarter of what had been a back-and-forth matchup for the first 30 minutes.
Next up: The U.S. on Friday for a spot in Sunday’s gold medal game. The U.S. beat Germany 99-91 on Aug. 20 in Abu Dhabi, rallying from a 16-point second-half deficit and needing an 18-0 run down the stretch to take control.
That game was a scrimmage, meaningless, the final tune-up before the World Cup. Friday’s game will be very, very different.
“We set ourselves high goals and it's going to be a challenge,” Germany's Johannes Thiemann said. “But with those goals in mind, we have to beat teams like the U.S. And hopefully we're able to do that.”
Andreas Obst scored 13 for Germany (6-0), which survived on a night where Dennis Schroder was 4 for 26 from the floor and scored nine points.
Arturs Zagars scored 24 and Davis Bertans scored 20 for Latvia (4-2).
“All I want to say is that I'm extremely proud of this team, battling every single game,” said Bertans, who took a deep 3-pointer for the lead with about 5 seconds left — then watched it hit the rim and bounce away.
With the win, Germany is assured of no worse than its second-best finish in basketball’s top two international events — the World Cup and the Olympics. The Germans were third in the 2002 world championships, an event now called the World Cup, and have never placed better than seventh at an Olympics.
Latvia — which has been without the injured Kristaps Porzingis — can still finish as high as fifth in its first World Cup appearance. It’ll play Italy in Thursday’s consolation playoffs, then play for either fifth- or seventh-place on Saturday.
“They're the best team in Europe nobody talks about,” Germany coach Gordie Herbert said of Latvia. “And they're missing a couple guys, too. They play great basketball, team basketball. They shoot it, well-coached, I give them a lot of credit.”
The Americans rolled past Italy 100-63 in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. They took Wednesday off, using part of the day to visit the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial — even taking part in a brief ceremony to commemorate the thousands of World War II soldiers who are buried or memorialized there.
They’ll resume practice Thursday, fully aware of the challenge Germany presented them with about three weeks ago.
“I just beat Latvia. Germany's in the semifinal of the World Cup,” Germany's Moritz Wagner said. “Don't ask me about the USA. I'm going to enjoy this and then I'm going to think about the USA tomorrow.”