U19 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
|Nikola Jankovic created havoc underneath the baskets, collecting 20 points and 16 rebounds|
Serbia out-defended Australia 63-58 in the semi-finals on Saturday in Prague to reach the title game of the U19 World Championship, where they will face the United States.
The final is a replay of one of the most entertaining encounters in the tournament so far, on the final day of the second round, in which Serbia had succumbed 71-62 to the Americans.
On Saturday, Serbia lacked focus initially and Australia scored the first seven points in the clash; the Balkan side scored only 11 points in the first quarter while giving up 18 to their opponents.
Serbia bounced back rapidly though and tightened the screws on defence to start the second frame on a 13-0 run, which enabled them to turn the tables and go to the locker rooms at the half-time interval leading 33-25.
While the European team never had another spurt as impressive as this until the end, they never let go of the lead either and withstood the Australian assault throughout the second half.
The Australians edged within one point, 59-58, with just 12 seconds left on the clock but while Dante Exum missed two free throws and a chance to put his team ahead, Vasilje Micic kept his calm from the line three seconds later and sunk both free throws to restore a vital three-point lead for Serbia.
Exum missed a three-point attempt to tie the scores and Jovan Novak and Micic, again from the charity stripe, sunk a free throw apiece to write the final result.
Big man Nikola Jankovic was dominant in the paint for Serbia and collected a massive double-double of 20 points and 16 rebounds, Micic finished with 13 points, eight assists and four rebounds while Stefan Pot added nine points and six rebounds.
On Sunday, Serbia will be hoping to go one better than in the 2011 edition of the championship, when they had picked up the silver medal after losing 85-67 to Lithuania.
It was precisely the Baltic side that could not set up in Prague a replay of that final with the Serbians, as they fell 60-100 to the USA in their own semi-final on Saturday.
No player scored in double digits for Lithuania, who were out-rebounded 42 to 26 and hit only 36.2 percent of their shots from the floor, to the Americans' 59.5 percent.
Donatas Tarolis and Tomas Dimsa both finished with nine points in defeat.
Meanwhile Spain defeated Croatia 75-64 in an all-European classification clash and will take on Canada on Sunday in the fifth-place game.
Center Juan Sebastian Saiz led the Spanish charge with a double-double of 16 points and 16 rebounds, Edgar Vicedo contributed 13 points and five rebounds while Dario Brizuela added 12 points and a team-high four assists.
For Croatia, Dario Saric collected 20 points and a game-high nine boards while Tomislav Gabric and Mislav Brzoja had 13 points apiece in losing efforts.
The Croats will face China on Sunday in the battle for seventh place.