By Paul Nilsen
|It was a hard fought battle between Serbia and Italy that was only decided in the final seconds of the game|
Turning Point: Serbia needed some inspiration and the spark came from Milica Dabovic who hit a huge three-pointer from the corner with 90 seconds remaining to get her team rolling right on cue. It reduced a five point deficit and initiated their devastating finish to the contest.
Stats Don't Lie: Serbia did much of their scoring from the free-throw line where they found themselves 32 times. They made 28 of those foul shots which was absolutely vital, whilst Italy will reflect on cracking under the defensive pressure down the stretch and committing 19 turnovers.
Game Heroes: There were plenty of contenders with Jelena Milovanovic, Jovana Rad and Milica Dabovic all claiming double-digit scores, but Tamara Radocaj came up with three steals and made the final decisive score en-route to an efficient 14 points.
A storming finish by Serbia helped them take a fifth straight win as they overcome Italy 85-79 to reach the semi-finals of EuroBasket Women 2013 and book their place at the FIBA World Championship for Women.
It was far from convincing for Serbia, who didn't use their superior physicality to great effect, but they came alive in crunch time- much to the delight of Ana Dabovic.
She said, "Winning five games in a row at a major tournament tells you everything you need to know about this team.
"Italy played a really tough game, but we always believed we would do it, even when things were difficult for us."
Whilst Serbia had shot the ball well from outside, Italy really did shoot the lights out from the perimeter, making 58% of their shots which gave them a great platform to win the game.
However, they imploded right in the last couple of minutes as they failed to execute in the same way they had done during the previous 38 minutes.
Surprisingly, it was not the kind of physical match-up which most had expected, as each side felt their way into the contest and engaged in a shoot-out.
And, it was a three-pointer from Benedetta Bagnara which completed the scoring and put Italy 26-23 ahead after ten minutes.
The second period saw Serbia improve, although with the game locked at 38-38, nice plays by Raffaella Masciadri and Sabrina Cincili restored the Azzurre advantage at 42-38 by half-time.
After a more intense third period, Italy still clung to the lead by a single point at 65-64, going into the last quarter.
They also looked on course to see the game out with a few minutes to play, as Francesca Dotto nailed a nice jump shot off the dribble as the shot-clock ticked down.
However, Milica Dabovic got Serbia kick-started and when Kathrin Ress missed two-free throws with 30 seconds remaining, the writing was on the wall for Italy, as Radocaj made the game safe with a nice drive to the hoop.
Giorgia Sottana had 22 points for the losing team.
Italy Player Giorgia Sottana:
"I want to congratulate my teammates, we did our best, we put our heart on the court but we lost. We are going to look forward and we will try to keep the positive things because tomorrow is a very important game."
Serbia Player Jelena Milovanovic:
"Congratulations to Italy, they fought from the first minute to the last one and we expected that from them. I am really happy right now; we also played putting our heart on the court and with a very good defence at the end of the game. I cannot explain how I feel."
Italy Head Coach Roberto Ricchini:
"We were up for most of the time, but they always stayed close and they could win at the end, so congratulations. I need to congratulate my team and we must recover quickly because to us, tomorrow is a very important game and we have to show that we are a great team."
Serbia Head Coach Marina Maljkovic:
"It is a historical win for us, I want to express our great happiness. Italy have a fantastic group of players, and my colleague is a very good and experienced coach. Today we wrote history, now some people will know in Serbia what is women's basketball. We are all sportswomen and have to prepare for the future, why stop now?"