by Dan Casey
|Agusti Sans led the Spain attack with 16 points, also hauling in 11 rebounds|
In a tense finale in Pardubice, Spain held on for a 74-72 victory to eliminate Serbia.
Entering the game, Serbia knew that a win would secure their progress. But they were playing against a tough Spanish side who have won every game in their U16 European Championship Men campaign since an opening-day defeat to the Czech Republic.
Spain began brightly and a three-pointer from Jose Nogues capped an 8-2 run, forcing Serbian coach Sasa Nikitovic to call time-out after 1:37 of the game.
The coach's advice helped his team back into the game and Dusan Ristic scored to put them 15-13 ahead. But Spain closed the period as they began it, another 8-2 run giving the Spanish team a 21-17 lead.
The second quarter saw an increase in defense, but Brano Djukanovic was able to escape and put back his own miss to make the score 32-31, a one-point lead for Spain.
Serbia forged ahead at the start of the third quarter, but Ferran Ventura ended the period with a three-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to give Spain a 48-46 advantage.
In the final period, Ristic scored with a dunk to cut Spain's lead to three, but Spain scored the next five points and led 66-58 with 1:49 remaining.
With their tournament on the line, the Serbian team would not give up easily and Ristic cut the lead to four with 0:30 remaining. Serbia fouled to stop the clock, but Agusti Sans was 5-6 from the line in the closing seconds, and Spain needed all the points because Marko Guduric hit two three-pointers to increase the pressure. But ultimately Serbia's comeback fell short.
Sans recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Javier De La Blanca contributed 13 points and 8 rebounds. Ventura added 15 points and Ilimane Diop blocked 5 shots. Serbia were led by 17 points from Djukanovic, and Guduric added 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Spain will play Turkey in Friday's Quarter-Final in Pardubice.