By Yarone Arbel
Spain is back in the spotlight of Europe after qualifying to the Omnitel U16 European Championship Men finals following an 88-75 win over Serbia.
In the finals are waiting the hosts of the tournament from Lithuania, who earlier beat Poland in the first Semi-Final.
Spain won the U16 gold medal in 2006 and silver in 2007, while Lithuania won the gold last year.
Serbia will take on Poland in the fight for the bronze medal, in hope to prevent the Polish winning a historical medal.
"We have a very good group of players with a big, big heart," said head coach Diego Ocampo who led Spain to the finals from the bench.
"We played a very aggressive defense today and that was one of the main reasons why we beat such a team as Serbia."
The final score doesn't reflect the happenings of the game.
Despite Spain dominated most of the second half, the gap was much smaller and increased only in the last minutes.
Jaime Fernandez led Spain with 20 points and four steals, Alejandro Suarez had 18 points, Mikel Motos added 13 and Daniel Diez 12.
Aleksandar Cvetkovic had 24 points and seven rebounds but finished with zero assists and six turnovers.
Nikola Pavlovic added 13 points but all in the first half, while Nenad Miljenovic had 12 points, but only two in the second half.
Nemanja Bezbradica recovered from the injury that forced him to leave Serbia's quarter-finals game, to add some strength inside the paint, but couldn't produce his usual numbers.
Pavlovic for Serbia and Fernandez for Spain had the hot hand right from the tip off, as each scored seven first quarter points, as their teams finished the first ten minutes with Serbia up by a point, 16-15.
Pavlovic continued to score but now Spain had Suarez to hit points in and out of the arc, to give Spain a 35-28 lead with two minutes to play in the half.
Yet another three pointer by Pavlovic stopped the Spanish run before Cvetkovic beat the half time buzzer from nearly mid-court to set the break score on 39-37.
Cvetkovic added five in a row early in the third to make it 44-41 in favor of Serbia, but was under constant pressure of the Spanish guards.
Miljenovic, who scored most of his ten first half points in transition game, didn't handle the aggressive Spanish defense as well, but Serbia still managed to stay close with second chance points and long distance shots.
"Serbia is a very good offensive team, and it was important for us to put a lot of pressure on their ball handlers.
"It helped us create points in fast break and limit their two-point points," analyzed the winning coach.
Suarez led a 7-0 run to put Spain on top right after the fourth quarter started, before Cvetkovic hit a jumper to cut the margin to 64-62 with seven minutes to play, but that was the last time Serbia scored for the following minutes.
Five players scored when Spain made a 14-1 run that decided the game.
"It will be a very difficult game. Lithuania are the clear favorites, but in the finals you give everything you got," concluded Ocampo thinking already about tomorrow's tough finals against the hosts.