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Serbia beats France to reach Euro quarterfinals

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The Canadian Press
9/15/2013 5:30:58 PM
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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Nemanja Nedovic stole the ball, raced down the court and soared for a thundering one-handed dunk.

It was just one of many highlights by Nedovic, who outplayed Tony Parker on Sunday in Serbia's 77-65 victory over France at the European basketball championships.

That dunk gave Serbia its biggest lead of 14 points midway through the fourth quarter. With France cutting the gap, Nedovic nailed a big 3-pointer that gave his team a secure 10-point lead with 2:28 left in the game.

The win gave Serbia first place in Group E, with both teams having already qualified for the quarter-finals. Lithuania took second, France third and Ukraine fourth place.

Nedovic, a shooting guard headed for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA, finished with 17 points and upstaged Parker, the San Antonio Spurs star, who was held to 10 points.

"He is a great player and it was our team effort that stopped him," said Nedovic, who went 5-for-8 from 3-point range and had 14 of his points in the second half.

Centre Nenad Krstic finished with 19 points while two other Serbia big men, Djordje Gagic and Vladimir Stimac, combined for 16 points and 11 rebounds. Serbia overcame 48-per cent shooting from the foul line.

"They were more aggressive, they put us under pressure and they have bigger men, Krstic was big inside," France forward Nicolas Batum said.

Batum was one of four France players with 12 points.

Earlier, Sacha Massot had a key block and a dunk late in the game to help give Belgium a 60-56 victory over Latvia that sent Ukraine into the quarter-finals.

Ukraine needed the help, too, as it then lost 70-63 to Lithuania in a later game. Latvia needed to win and have Lithuania beat Ukraine to advance.

"We beat Belgium by one point on a 3-point play with two seconds left in our first game of the tournament and they did us a favour today," Ukraine coach Mike Fratello said.

Croatia, Slovenia and Italy have already advanced from Group F, which ends play Monday. Spain, Greece and Finland are in the running for one remaining slot.

Massot blocked a Janis Blums layup and then dunked for a 59-56 lead that completed a 9-0 Belgium run. Dairis Bertans missed a 3-point attempt and Wen Mukubu made one of two free throws to complete the scoring. Massa led Belgium with 14 points, four rebounds and three blocks.

Latvia, which shot 29 per cent from the field, had a chance to win late despite trailing most of the game but Rolands Freimanis botched an alley-oop attempt. Latvia got the ball back thanks to Axel Hervelle's turnover but Massot blocked Blums' drive.

Latvia made only 5 of 29 3-point attempts despite relying on long-range shooting as its biggest weapon. Mukubu had 13 points and Hervelle added 10 and seven rebounds in Belgium's only second-round win.

Lithuania's Linas Kleiza nailed a 3-pointer for a decisive 67-63 lead with 1:03 remaining. He also made a free throw and Donatas Motiejunas made two as Lithuania scored the last six points of the game.

"They made the big shots when they had to," Fratello said, while praising his team for its effort even though it had already qualified before the game. "They could focus on trying to win to move up in the standings. It didn't happen but they showed they deserved to be here."

Kleiza finished with 15 points, while Sergii Gladyr had 18 for Ukraine. Pooh Jeter added 10 points and eight assists.

"We didn't expect to get this far, but we are young and ambitious and we go out and play hard," Gladyr said.

Ukraine, which will host the next European championship in two years, is in the quarter-finals for the first time.

"Ukraine has improved a lot, they play very good basketball," Lithuania coach Jonas Kazlaukas said.

Nemanja Nebovic (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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