Spain advanced to the final of the U20 European Championship Men for the first time since 2002 and third time overall after Pau Ribas scored 21 points including two late free throws to secure a 76-69 victory over Russia.
The 1996 and 2002 silver medallists played a superb team game and in the end overcame a bigger Russian side to reach Sunday's finale in Gorizia against Serbia as the only undefeated team left in the tournament.
Spain lost to Lithuania in the 1996 title game and to Greece in 2002. And now they are ready to show it's their time to shine.
"This feels great. I went into the locker-room and told them we have a medal and they said, No, we want the gold. And I told them, okay, we'll give it our best tomorrow," said Spain coach Juan Antonio Orenga.
|Pau Ribas led Spain's scorers with 21 points|
"This was how we always play, as a team. Two or three guys always pick up their game and Xavier Rey always."
Rey was Orenga's sole big man and he continued his excellent tournament, collecting 13 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and four blocked shots.
Javier Beiran was Spain's top outside marksman with 14 points on four three-pointers and Marc Fernandez chipped in 11 points off the bench.
Russia, who out-rebounded the Spaniards 36-25, were paced by 14 points and eight rebounds from Andrey Vorontsevich while Alexey Shved had 13 points and Ilya Syrovatko added 12.
Orenga's Spanish side started cold, making just two of their first nine shots in falling behind 13-4.
Three straight turnovers by Russia allowed Rey to score two inside baskets and bring Spain to within 13-10.
Leading 16-14, Petr Gubanov grabbed two offensive rebounds on one possession and then stepped out and drained a three-pointer, which was followed by long bombs from Maxim Sheleketo and Vorontsevich as Russia opened a 25-17 gap after one period.
Andrey Maltsev's team clearly dominated the glass, out-rebounding the smaller Spaniards 15-3 in the first 10 minutes.
Russia extended their lead to 10 points three minutes into the second quarter on three-pointers from Shved and Syrovatko - 33-23.
Beiran sank three straight baskets - two of them three-pointers - as Spain trimmed the deficit to 35-31 with four minutes in the half. And it was only a two-point Russia lead at the break after Oscar Andres Duarte put back an offensive rebound for a 40-38 half-time scoreline.
Spain went scoreless on five straight trips down the court and Vorontsevich's basket gave Russia a 50-43 lead midway through the third.
But Spain worked hard defensively and Rau Ribas drained a three-pointer, tying the game at 50-05 on Rey's free throw wtih 3:33 to play in the third.
Syrovalko made back-to-back driving lay-ups for Russia and Shved made a three-point play in giving Maltsev's side a 57-54 lead going into the fourth.
The Russians still struggled solving the Spaniards' defence and Orenga's team pulled ahead 59-57 on Fernandez's reverse lay-up with 5:54 remaining. Russia didn't score a fourth-quarter basket until Shved's three-pointer with 4:53 to play.
Ribas later would give Spain a 65-64 lead on a lay-up and after Artur Urazmanov missed a rushed three-pointer for Russia, Beiran buried another trey to make it 68-64 with 1:31 to go. Yet another Beiran bomb left Spain ahead 73-69 wtih 29 seconds left.
After Spain gained possession when Shved's jumper got caught between the rim and the backboard, Ribas made two foul shots with 22 seconds left for a six-point advantage.
Shved missed a three-pointer and Fernandez gave Spain the winning margin with a foul shot with 13 seconds left.
"We started maybe too high. We were hitting three-pointers and things were good. And then things went down hill. It was the opposite for them. They started slowly and in the end played better as a team," said Maltsev.
"We played like a team for 35 minutes and in the end it was one-on-one with shots with hands in our face."
Russia will play Italy on Sunday for the bronze medal.