Slovenia beat Serbia to claim European basketball title

EuroBasket final match between Slovenia and Serbia. Photo: Žiga Bojc/STA

The Slovenian national basketball team became the European champions after defeating Serbia 93:85 in the final match of the 2017 EuroBasket in Istanbul on Sunday. The gold medal is the first medal ever for the nation at major basketball competitions.

The match was played in the sold-out Sinan Erdem Dome which saw some 6,000 Slovenian fans who converged on the Turkey's biggest town after their team qualified for the final by beating previous European champions Spain in semi-finals on Friday against all odds.

Slovenia entered the match as the only undefeated team at the tournament after sweeping the five preliminary round games in Helsinki, Finland, and eliminating Ukraine, Latvia and Spain in the knock-out round on the path to the final with Serbia.

As a debutant in the finals, Slovenia faced in Serbia the silver medallists from the 2009 European championship, the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics, but were never impressed by one of the most successful European nations in basketball.

In the first quarter, both teams were nervous and impressed by the wild crowd, exchanging leads and measuring each other's strengths. The period ended with Serbia leading 22:20.

Slovenia went on a 5:0 run at the start of the second quarter and pushed the tempo further to increase the lead to 10 points midway in the period.

The hot play by Slovenia's best player Goran Dragić helped Slovenia maintain the lead until the end of the first half (56:47), with the Miami Heat point guard scoring a total of 26 points.

But Slovenia fell in a hole in the third quarter, struggling to score consistently, while losing its teen star Luka Dončić to a sprained ankle.

Serbia cut the lead to only two points three minutes to go, but Dragić calmed the things down at the end to give Slovenia a four-point lead at the end.

Owing to some poor shooting decisions, Slovenia surrendered the lead by the middle of the last quarter, allowing Serbia to take a one-point lead midway the last period, after which the two teams were almost equal until two minutes to go.

It was then when Slovenia tightened up their defence and Anthony Randolph and Klemen Prepelič scored crucial points to seal the win for Slovenia with the exhausted Dragić looking from the bench.

Source: STA

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