|Nikola Radicevic led Serbia in their struggle that ended with a triumph after extra time|
by Yarone Arbel
An excited crowd of 1,500 witnessed a big thriller in Group E as Serbia edged France 69-61 after overtime in the U16 European Championship at Sports Hall Topolica in Bar, Montenegro on Tuesday evening.
Serbia improved to 3-1 and tied their record with France to clinch their pass to the quarter-final round.
Tomorrow Serbia will try to keep the good momentum as they'll take on Greece while France will face Croatia in a game that could decide the first place in the group.
Raphael Binvignat hit an open three pointer from the corner to force the over time after the teams fought for 40 minutes.
Serbia had the better focus in the extra period and stayed ahead from the first moment to take the eight point win.
"We don't belong here but in Hollywood with the number of thrillers we produce," said Sasa Nikitovic from the Serbian bench.
"I believe we can still improve in every aspect of the game, but so far we don't show it.
"What won the game for us tonight was pure luck, and as much as I like to win, I prefer to do it with smart basketball, and not with luck."
Nikola Radicevic had a big night with 16 points and he was followed by Nikola Jankovic with 15 points and 13 rebounds while Nikola Majic added 11.
France saw Mouhammadou Jaiteh excel with 16 points and 12 rebounds, Anthony Racine had 14 points, Charly Maraux scored 12 and Damien Roberto Inglis finished with 11 and eight rebounds.
Serbia started the game with a 6-1 lead, and Jankovic was very active under the boards to increase the gap with a basket and bonus play, 15-6 at the bottom of the first quarter.
Jaiteh finished well and together with Inglis completed 10 points in a row to take the lead for the first time, and remain above after 17 minutes with a 20-24 lead.
Four Serbs led an 8-1 run to finish the first half with a 28-25 lead and Stefan Pot scored from the perimeter to continue the run early in the second half and make it 33-25.
Once again Jaiteh stepped up and Racine connected nine in a row, to write 38-39 on the score board while Serbia didn't score a point against Racine's run in the last 4:44 minutes of the third.
The closing quarter saw Serbia run again to a five point lead, but couldn't contain a French run Racine capped with a three pointer, 47-49.
Radicevic answered right away with a three pointer of his own, as Serbia entered the last 94 seconds with a 55-52 lead, but forgot Binvignat open and was forced to play five more minutes.
Again Radicevic and this time Majic too scored from the arc, and made a 10-2 run France couldn't handle.
Jaiteh's big dunk cut the margin again to four, but Radicevic was perfect from the foul line and kept the win in Serbia's hands.