Serbia will look to dethrone defending champions Spain in the final after using a strong fourth quarter to overcome Lithuania 74-64 in the second semi-final in Rethimnon tonight.
Dragan Vaskcanin’s men outscored Lithuania 32-12 over the game’s last 16 minutes to ensure a better result than their third place finish in the competition last year.
Dejan Musli had game-highs of 20 points – 14 of them after the break – 11 rebounds and six blocks as he helped his team rally back from a 12-point deficit midway through the third quarter.
Despite their much slighter physical stature, Lithuania proved a really tough match up for the tall, tough and burly Serbia and even looked like they might reach their first ever final when they used a 10-2 run in the third period to lead by 54-42.
But Marius Linartas’ men seemed to tire down the stretch after using a lot of energy to keep the game close in the first half, when they took a 32-30 lead at the break thanks to their suffocating defense and fast-paced style on offense.
Serbia went on a 7-0 spurt at the end of the third quarter and that seemed to deflate Lithuania who lost the lead when Nemanja Jaramaz hit a three-pointer for a 61-58 advantage with just over eight minutes left in the contest.
And the path to the basket was now closed to Lithuania as Musli and Branislav Djekic clogged the lane and contested every shot.
At the other end of the court, Serbia finally took full advantage of their physical dominance and went to the towering Musli down the stretch to deliver the final blows.
Serbia never relinquished the lead after Jaramaz’s long-range bomb and kept adding to it, with Musli doing so in style with two powerful dunks to make it a 67-62 game with 1:26 left to play.
‘Lithuania proved a very worthy opponent tonight,’ said Serbia’s team manager Mirko Pavlovic.
’They played very well throughout and managed to contain Dejan [Musli] in the first half. But it looked like they got tired in the second half and we had more energy than them. Also they seem to used less players than we do so we kept our main players fresh and ready for the final quarter.’
Captain Augustus Peciukevicius and Ovidijus Varanauskas had 16 points to lead the way for Lithuania who will face Turkey tomorrow and can earn their first medal in the competition.
The two finalists played each other in Thursday’s last game of the qualifying round with the defending champions Spain losing 59-48 on that occasion.