Turning Point: With their confidence up, Serbia looked like pulling off an unlikely victory at the death but veteran Todor Gechevski halted the run with a clutch triple with 3:26 remaining before forcing a stop at the opposite end.
Game Hero: Bo McCalebb scored a game-high 27 points, but the tireless hustle of 36-year-old Gechevski in F.Y.R of Macedonia's match-winning first half deserves an honourable mention. The veteran contributed nine points and nine rebounds whilst also playing tough, gritty defence.
Stats Don't Lie: F.Y.R of Macedonia's win was characterised by effort and energy- their much smaller front court still managed out-rebound Serbia 48-36.
|Bo McCalebb stole the show for F.Y.R. of Macedonia, scoring 27 points|
F.Y.R of Macedonia kept their Second Round hopes alive by defeating the previously unbeaten Serbia 89-75 on Friday night in Jesenice.
Undermanned without big man Gjorgi Chekovski, F.Y.R of Macedonia still managed to win against an opponent the players highly respect.
"[Serbia] are still the best team in our group but we showed that we have some pride in us left," said Vlado Ilievski after scoring 16 points.
"After the first two difficult losses we showed some really great heart today."
Serbia dictated the first quarter pace, but were beaten at their own up-tempo game by the Macedonians, falling behind by as much as 12 after F.Y.R of Macedonia earned 17 free throws by attacking the hoop at every opportunity.
Big men Pero Antic and Todor Gechevski took turns scoring and rebounding as the game slowed down dramatically, but it was their work against the usually prolific Nenad Krstic that was most commendable. The star center managed to score his first point with 5:39 remaining in the half, however the lead had crept up to 15 by that stage.
"We played a very bad first half, we allowed 50 points in first two quarters," a deflated Danilo Andjusic said post-game.
"They are an experienced team and the experienced guys made a big difference and they led the whole game. We didn't have the strength to come back."
The game appeared to slip out of Serbia's grasp for good in the third quarter, but a final term comeback tested the F.Y.R of Macedonian reserve.
Serbia slashed the massive deficit down to 11 points and had four minutes to steal the comeback, but jump shots to Gechevski, Damjan Stojanovski with a little bit more Bo McCalebb offence was enough to get F.Y.R of Macedonia's EuroBasket back on track.
For the F.Y.R of Macedonian players, Friday night was a chance to atone for the previous night's poor loss and for a close friend missing in action.
"We played very well and hit good shots, all the things we didn't do against Lithuania yesterday," said Vojdan Stojanovski.
"This win is for Gjorgi Chekovski who is injured and couldn't play with us tonight."
McCalebb added two steals to his 27 points on 46.7% from the field. Antic added 16 and 14 rebounds.
Andjusic led Serbia with 19 points while Nemanja Bjelica contributed 13 and eight rebounds.