Serbia used a strong second-half performance to beat Spain 56-55 for a second time in the last four days to dethrone the defending champions in the final at a packed Melina Merkoyri Stadium in Rethimnon tonight.
|Josep Franch De Pablo led Spain with 13 points and eight rebounds. |
Dragan Vaskanin’s men, who trailed by as many as 10 at one point in the first half, outscored Spain 19-10 in the third quarter to go into the final period ahead, 41-39, on a basket by Branislav Djekic.
And, after a relatively quiet first half, Dejan Musli – the tournament’s Most Valuable Player – took over, scoring eight points in a row down the stretch to give his team a 52-46 lead.
Spain kept coming back and tied the game at 53 on a basket by Michel Acosta with just over a minute left.
Djekic then made a lay up and Musli converted one of two free-throws for a 56-53 lead.
Spain had a chance to tie the game when Alejandro Lopez was fouled on a three-point attempt with 31 seconds left.
He made two of three foul shots to cut the deficit to one.
But Serbia were able to hold on and claim the title.
‘We were very tired in the first half but somehow we managed to get some energy after half time and we are deserving winners,’ said Serbia team manager Mirko Pavlovic.
‘Spain played very well. They are very brave and a good team but not as good as ours.’
And Pavlovic had high-praise for Serbia’s leader and hero, Musli.
‘He is the best. He played so well throughout this tournament and tonight once again he got us in a position to win. There’s not much more to say about him.’
Musli finished with game highs of 19 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks as he helped Serbia to an undefeated record (8-0) in the tournament.
Danilo Andjusic added 10 points
Josep Franch had 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists for Spain, who had to play most of the game without star player Alberto Jodar who sprained his ankle in the first five minutes of the game
Jodar had scored the first basket of the game as Jota Cuspinera never trailed in the first half, taking a 29-22 lead at the break.
The defending champions even held a brief double-digit lead, 16-6, on Franch’s basket to start the second quarter.
Serbia, after getting off to a slow start that saw them trail 14-6 at the end of the first period, cut the gap several times but never got any closer than five points before the break as they failed to take advantage of their height inside and couldn’t establish a low scoring presence through Musli.
In fact the 212cm centre didn’t score his first points until there was 8:40 left in the first half to make it a 16-10 game, but Spain answered right away with Endika Bahillo scoring a lay up at the other end.
Lazar Radosavljevic kept Serbia from falling too far behind with seven points at the half and Musli did eventually make his presence felt, accounting for eight points, three rebound and three blocked shots at the break
Serbia though, much as it did against Lithuania, turned the game in its favour in the second half.