By Daniel AubreySerbia have booked the first place in this year’s final after digging out a big 82-71 win against a battling Latvia.
A last quarter surge from the Serbians, led again by a mammoth Milan Macvan with 20 points and 15 rebounds, saw off a brave challenge from the Latvians after neither team had been able to command in the first three phases of the game.
The buzzer was met with tremendous scenes from the Serbian squad, who paraded the court with a giant flag before saluting their small army of travelling fans seated behind their bench.
|Milan Macvan had 20 points and 15 rebounds for Serbia in their semi-final win. |
“I’m feeling very, very good. We’re euphoric. We always want to win, always” said an elated coach Dejan Mijatovic after the game.
Both teams made their intentions clear from the start, Latvia getting off the mark with a treble from Dairis Bertans, who had a great game with 24 points and 13 rebounds, and Serbia responding by Nikola Markovic dunking it home.
The lead swung back and forth eight times as both sides tried to take charge; Serbia were first to keep their noses in front before a 6-0 run at the end of the quarter put Latvia in charge barely by 20-17 as the first phase closed.
More of the same in the second quarter as the tense game stayed close.
Serbia were back in front after 3 minutes, and with Macvan dominating with 11 points and 12 boards by this point they had the biggest lead of the night – six points – with 3:41 remaining.
It was a lead that lasted a minute as Lauris Mizis then Janis Strelmieks hit a trey each to tie things up at 29 each with 2:41 left in the half.
Finally a Markovic trey at the end of the half made sure Serbia led at the break 35-32.
The same pattern followed in the third quarter as Serbia again threatened to run away with the tie until during a two minute period at the end of the third the ball just wouldn’t go down for them and Latvia brought it back again to 48-47 with 1:06 left till the final part.
Just as had happened in their game with Greece, Latvia let go in the final quarter and Macvan, Markovic and Dusan Katnic – who scored 10 points in this quarter to end the game with 22 – led Serbia on a run of 13-3 at the start of the final quarter to effectively seal the result.
Serbia will now await the result of tonight’s other semi-final between Greece and Lithuania to discover their opponents in Sunday’s big final.