There was jubilation and a party atmosphere at the U20 European Championship Men 2010 in Zadar as over three thousand fans celebrated with their team as hosts Croatia snatched victory from the gaping jaws of defeat in a thrilling 76-75 quarter-final win over rivals Serbia.
Led by the inspirational Mario Delas and returning Toni Prostran, they completed a dramatic and compelling comeback.
|Nemanja Nedovic and his team-mates have lost their last three games in similar fashion|
Trailed by six points in the last twenty seconds Croatia somehow squeezed out a memorable victory to get the home fans dreaming of gold - although Greece will certainly have other ideas about that.
Inside the last 30 seconds, Dino Butorac drained a triple before the previously impressive Nemanja Nedovic turned the ball over in disastrous fashion on the resulting possession for Serbia after inexplicably looking for a quick score via Musli who couldn't gather in his over-thrown pass.
Both teams then exchanged two converted free-throws in quick succession before Croatia found Butorac one again with just a few seconds left and he was fouled in the corner shooting a triple which sent him to the line.
Amidst almost unbearable tension, he made his first two free-throws and as everyone gasped, he missed his final free-throw only for the hero to emerge. Mario Delas grabbed the vital board and converted the put back to put his team in front with six seconds left.
That gave Serbia the ball on the half-way line for their final possession after a time-out but Danilo Andjusic missed the shot and in a fitting finale, it was Delas who grabbed the ball and gave the signal for the party to begin in earnest.
Having held a narrow 30-27 lead at half-time, Croatia trailed for almost the entire second half and looked destined to crash out of the tournament. In fact there was a distinct air of resignation around the gym until Serbia pressed the self-destruct button - and not for the first time in the competition.
Reminiscent of their loss to Greece earlier in the week, Serbia failed to show the composure or mental aptitude to see the game out and they were left devastated on the final buzzer but only had themselves to blame.
Delas had 16 points and 9 rebounds for his team (watch his postgame reaction here) while Prostran had 7 points and 7 assists on his return.