|Croatia celebrated a seldom victory against Serbia at U16 level|
Croatia started their journey in the U16 European Championship with a key 69-64 victory over Serbia in a Group A game at Sports Hall Topolica in Bar, Montenegro on Thursday evening.
The win matched Croatia with Italy with a 1-0 record at the top of the group while Serbia joined Germany with a 0-1 record at the bottom.
Tomorrow Croatia will take on Italy to split their ways while Serbia will try to keep Germany without wins after two days.
"There was big pressure on my players around this game, because we didn't lose to Croatia in a very long time," said Sasa Nikitovic of the Serbian bench.
"We started the game very bad and had to chase after them the whole game, but even when we caught up we didn't have the focus to win the game, they hit a couple of big shots and eventually this is basketball."
Coach Nikitovic refers to the six points his team scored in the first quarter, but eventually it was Croatia's Dario Saric who took over the game and won it almost by himself in the closing minute.
Saric finished the game with 25 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks the last of them turned to be very crucial in addition to a big steal. Filip Bundovic added 14 points and Karlo Lebo scored 11.
In Serbia it was Nikola Jankovic who had 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks while Nikola Majic added 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Vasilje Micic didn't enjoy the first minutes as in less than six minutes he already reached four turnovers, and allowed Croatia to have a 12-1 lead.
The Serbs recovered and Jankovic with a dunk said they are ready to fight, but Saric was still in charge to register a 31-19 lead.
Jankovic remained active and led his team to score 10 points in a row before the break and finish the first half behind just by two points, 31-29.
Serbia tied the score with the first bucket of the later half, but saw Saric and Bundovic react, and make it a 10 point game once again, 47-37 midway in the third.
Majic and Jankovic were responsible for another Serbian run, this time enough to put them on top for the first time in the game, but Croatia had their secret weapon ready.
Martin Junakovic, who entered the last minutes without a point, hit twice in a row from downtown and set the score on 64-62 inside the last two minutes yet Croatia still needed Saric to step up to decide the game.
With 60 seconds on the clock he scored a lay up, before Micic scored once from the charity stripe to make 66-64 for Croatia.
Saric then missed, but quickly fixed himself with a huge block for which he added another point from the line.
Still down by only three points with 12 seconds to play Serbia had their chance, but Saric once more showed up with a big play, stole the ball at half court and finished with a big dunk to seal the deal.