Serbia proved too strong in the second half as they beat Italy 82-74 in the quarter-finals at the U18 European Championship Men 2009, in Metz, France.
The Serbs scored the last six points of the third quarter to break a 54 tie and, when Danilo Andjusic hit a three-pointer to open the final frame, they were up 63-54.
Italy got back to within four, 64-60, on Andrea De Nicolao's pull-up jumper with 6:18 left to play, but Alessandro Ramagli's side were overwhelmed by a stronger and fresher Serbian side.
Dejan Musli drove baseline and dunked with authority for a 68-60 lead with five minutes remaining. Branislav Djekic then hit three free-throws to put Serbia up by 11, 72-61.
Michele Vitali hit a corner three to close within seven, 74-67, and Italy had to foul to stop the clock. The strategy was fruitless though as Serbia hit on 11 of 12 free-throw attempts in the period.
"We expected it to be a close game and it was for the first half," said Serbian reserve Aleksandar Ponjavic.
"But late in the third quarter we made a good push, especially in the last minute. And of course we tried to play much better defense, which I think we did a good job of."
Down 35-33 at the break, Italy tied the game on the first possession of the third quarter on Antonio Iannuzzi's putback and the teams traded the lead before the Azzurri pulled away 48-44 on De Nicolao's three-pointer midway through the period.
Serbia were quickest out of the gates at the start of this game, going up 6-2 before Italy eventually got going and took a 13-10 lead on Andrea De Nicolao's three-pointer with 2:16 left in the opening period.
The Serbs though then used a 9-0 run spanning the end of the first quarter and early part of the second to go up 19-13 on Branislav Djekic's hook shot.
Italy again proved resilient and used an 8-2 spurt to tie it at 21 before Serbia ran off 10 unanswered points - eight of them by Danilo Andjusic - to take the first double-digit lead of the game at 31-21.
But Italy responded by scoring 12 of the last 16 points of the half to trail by just two, 35-33.
De Nicolao and Filippo Baldi Rossi hit consecutive three-pointers and Riccardo Moraschini hit a jumper in the closing seconds of the second quarter as Italy went into the locker room down by just two, despite shooting just 14 for 44 from the field (4 for 14 from three-point range) and missed six of their seven free-throw attempts.
Andjusic had a game-high 23 points while Musli finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and two assists.
De Nicolao had 22 points for Italy.