|Tears of joy for Sweden's Amanda Zahui and Abigail Asoro at the final buzzer of the heart-breaking quarter-final clash with Serbia|
Sweden earned a place in the Global Vision U18 European Championship Women Semi-Finals the hard way, after a fabulous finish in a thrilling game against Serbia, 66-65.
The final buzzer released tears from both sides. Tears of joy for Sweden's hero Amanda Zahui and her team-mates, tears of sorrow for star player Natasa Kovacevic and her fellow Serbians.
Zahui stood under her own basket looking up at the other side of the gym for a few seconds.
She was looking at the scoreboard, frozen at the final score, the same scoreboard that with 4:34 remaining in the third quarter showed 36-46 for Serbia.
A few meters away, heart-broken Natasa Kovacevic was covering her face with her hands.
Kovacevic was the one that carried her team with 21 points and eight rebounds, but in the same time she missed a crucial free throw, with 12 seconds to go, that could have sent the game to overtime.
Serbia dominated the first half with an excellent transition game and a dominating presence inside the paint, personified in Ivana Brajkovic.
The Swedish team used an aggressive one-on-one defense that forced the opponents to low-percentage shots in the second quarter, but it was still the Serbians who were leading at halftime, 27-38.
The Balkans had a big drought in the end of the third quarter, when they were outscored 11-2, and Sweden were back in the game, behind by only one before the decisive period, 47-48.
The Scandinavians took only their second lead of the game in the beginning of the fourth, after two free throws made by Asoro, and what followed was an incredible thriller, with clutch shots and terrible misses.
Amanda Zahui buried a three-point shot with 6:38 to go, to extend the run to 16-2, and the lead at four points, 52-48. But Stanacev replied immediately with a two point jump-shot.
Zahui added another two points and hit her heart with the fist, showing who's the go to player for her team.
It was 55-50. Kovacevic hit back with a big three of her own to make it 55-53. Toskovic leveled the score 55-55.
Zahui added another two. Aleksandra Stanacev replied for 57-57. Milica Toskovic made it 57-60, with 2:39 remaining on the clock. The game went crazy.
Kovacevic took the entire Swedish defense for a ride and scored a tough lay-up with 91 seconds to go to make it 62-59. But the opponents still had some ammo left.
After Stanacev took the Serbians to a four-point lead, 64-60, with one minute to go, everything fell apart for her team.
Asoro made two free throws, and on the next Serbian possession, Nystrom stole the ball and leveled the score on the fast-break, 64-64.
Asoro hit another two from the free throw line with 18 seconds to go, and Kovacevic missed her only free throw in this game, and then, after Topuzovic rebounded and passed her the ball, she missed a desperation shot from behind the three-point line.
It was time for tears to start pouring from both sides.