By Yarone Arbel
Serbia won their second bronze medal in the U16 age category after beating Poland 75-69 in the Bronze medal game of the Omnitel U16 European Championship Men.
The first bronze medal was won in 2006, while in 2007 they won gold.
Poland missed a big chance to win a historical medal in a youth competition.
Serbia had the lead from tip off till mid-way in the fourth, but Poland wrote a huge come back and took a three point lead with five minutes to play.
|Piotr Niedzwiedzki had another big night for Poland, but it was not enough.|
Nerves started too talk as the decision time approached.
The teams entered the last minute still separated by only two points, but three turnovers by Poland in the last 82 seconds made the difference.
Aleksandar Cvetkovic had 20 points and ten rebounds for Serbia while Nenad Miljenovic added 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Poland saw 18 points and 11 rebounds by Piotr Niedzwiedzki, Przemyslaw Karnowski added 14 with six rebounds, four assists and two blocks while Michal Michalak added ten.
For a change Poland didn't out-rebound their opponent and finished with just a single board advantage, 45-44, which hurt their chances to win.
"Winning the bronze medal is great success for us," said the crowned coach Nenad Trunic,
"But we also learned here about the things we need to fix and improve, and that's what we'll try to do until the U17 World Championship."
"We showed once more that we have a team of 12 players who can cover for each other," he added.
"The leaders were Cvetkovic and Miljenovic but players came off the bench and helped us win the game, like several other times in this championship."
Poland didn't find their rhythm in the first minutes, and saw Serbia take a quick 7-0 lead.
Niedzwiedzki scored from distance to put his team on the boards as well, but it took six minutes till the second bucket came, and by then Serbia held a 13-3 lead.
Miljenovic scored from three point range to push the gap to 22-7 at the end of the first quarter, and allow Serbia some space for relaxation.
Michalak scored three points in transition while Karnowski had trouble to produce against the Serbian bigs.
Another assist by Miljenovic pushed the gap to 32-16 after 15 minutes.
Cvetkovic scored the next six points of Serbia to reach the half with a total of 12, but Poland didn't allow Serbia to get too far, and finished the first half down by 15, 40-25.
The second half started just like the first one, just in the opposite direction.
Poland wrote a 10-3 run and Trunic had to call for a time-out.
Cvetkovic wrote a big play when he stole the ball and finished a three point play at the other end to make it 50-38.
Poland's point guard, Grzegorz Grochowski got injured and was carried out by his team-mate Karnowski to the applauses of the fans, but their team still didn't give up.
Serbia entered the last quarter up by ten, 54-44, but lost big guy Nemanja Bezbradica who fouled out right after the last ten minutes started.
That was the cue for Poland to make their last attempt.
Michalak hit a big three pointer and once again Serbia had a slow start, to see a Polish 16-3 run that included a big fast break dunk finish by Piotr Niedzwiedzki with five minutes on the game clock, and Poland up 60-57.
Luka Mitrovic and Miljenovic answered quickly and capped an 11-1 Serbian run, but it wasn't over yet despite a 68-61 margin with two minutes to play.
Karnowski with a huge no-look pass, that could win the play of the championship award, to Niedzwiedzki followed by a great post-up play cut it down to just two, 68-66 with a single minute on the game clock.
Poland still had the ball to tie the game or take the lead, but Miljenovic stole the ball and hit twice from the line.
Karnowski missed and now it was Cvetkovic's turn to connect two free throws with 17 ticks to play, 72-66.
Michalak with a huge three pointer kept the Polish hopes for just a few more seconds, before Cvetkovic secured the medal from the line.