Russia upsets Spain to win gold at EuroBasket

Sep 16, 2007 - 10:39 PM By Cindy Garcia-Bennett Special to PA SportsTicker

MADRID (Ticker) - J.R. Holden made a jumper with less than three seconds remaining to lift Russia to a 60-59 upset of Spain in the gold medal game at EuroBasket.

Holden' shot bounced off the rim and backboard before falling through.

Following a timeout, Pau Gasol missed a jumper as time expired.

"This is the number one moment of my career," said Russian forward Andrei Kirilenko, who was named MVP.

Spain are a great team, but we put them under pressure. This has been a team effort.

Kirilenko scored a game-high 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, dished out two assists, blocked one shot and came up with one steal.

"You must understand that it's a sad night for us," Gasol said.

"I haven't had a good game tonight. I admit it on the last ball, I really saw it going in. I guess I could have taken a step closer. But we have to congratulate Russia. They have played a really good game and we have to be proud of what we have achieved, which is a silver medal."

Spain led by as many as 12 points in the first half but Russia closed to 34-31 at intermission.

With Gasol struggling to a 5-of-12 effort at the free-throw line, Russia kept it close and tied the contest at 52-52 when Anton Ponkrashov made 1-of-2 free throws with less than seven minutes remaining.

Gasol gave Spain a 59-54 lead with 1:48 to go on a layup, but was fouled and failed to convert the three-point play.

Kirilenko then went to the other end and added two free throws and before stealing a pass from Carlos Jimenez for his one steal on the night.

Zakhar Pashutin then handed the ball off to Nikita Morgunov, who scored on a short jumper to make it 59-58 with 43 seconds left.

Spain decided to feed the ball to Gasol, but Holden dropped down to help on defense and took the ball right out of his hands with 27 seconds left before going to the other end to hit what proved to be the game-winning jump shot.

Kirilenko was joined on the all-tournament team by Dirk Nowitzki, Jose Manuel Calderon, Gasol and Ramunas Siskauskas.

Lithuania wanted gold but they're happy with bronze after beating Greece 78-69 - a result that qualifies the Baltic country for the Beijing Olympics.

Unbeaten in the EuroBasket until their semifinal defeat to Russia on Saturday, Sarunas Jasikevicius and a tenacious Lithuanian defense clinched the country's first medal since the EuroBasket 2003 title won in Sweden.

Jasikevicius was MVP of that tournament, and he has been an inspirational figure in this team after taking two years off to try and establish a successful NBA career.

The point guard scored 11 points, making 3-of-5 shots from 3-point range - the last with 17 seconds remaining to finish off Greece's hopes of another miracle comeback.

The Greeks had trailed Slovenia 16 points in the fourth quarter on Friday but hit back to win that quarterfinal, 63-62.

"We knew we had to focus for 40 minutes against Greece if we wanted to win the game," said Rimantas Kaukenas, the former player at Seton Hall University in the United States who is the starting shooting guard with Lithuania.

Kaukenas probably sealed his place in this year's squad after leading Montepaschi Siena to the Italian title and winning the honor of Lega A Finals MVP.

"This is a great feeling," Kaukenas said. "We won the bronze medal, and we're going to the Olympics."

Lithuania led for most of the game, but Greece did make things very difficult in the first half.

Gold medal winners two years ago in Belgrade and runners-up last year at the

FIBA World Championship, Greece's biggest lead came at 29-26 with 6:23 left in the first half after Theo Papaloukas picked off a pass from Ramunas Siskauskas and raced down the floor for a layup.

Ksistof Lavrinovic made a layup with 4:58 to go and Linas Kleiza split a pair of free throws to tie the game.

Jasikevicius then drilled a 3-pointer to make it 32-29 and put Lithuania in front for good.

When Kleiza scored one of his three 3-pointers with 2:32 to go in the half to cap the 13-1 run, Lithuania led 39-30.

Greece closed to 44-41 early in the second on a 3-pointer from the left corner by Dimitris Diamantidis, but Kleiza came up with a pair of big baskets, including a 3-pointer to make it 49-42.

Greece got no closer than six points in the fourth quarter.

"I'm very happy for the medal," said Jasikevicius. "It's very important for me to keep the Lithuania tradition going.

"I'm not sure whether to be happy about the medal, or about having several weeks off next summer."

Jasikevicius also played down speculation in Europe that he may return to Maccabi Tel Aviv, Barcelona or Olympiacos.

"I am a player of the Golden State Warriors," said Jasikevicius. "The speculation about me going to Greece has been going on for two months and there is nothing to it."

"Congratulations to Lithuania," Greek coach Panagiotis Yannakis said. "They played better. My team tried with heart and soul, but we didn't have a fresh mind.

"It was a very hard tournament. It's true that we could have had a better result, but we could also have had a worse finish. We have the opportunity to go to the next the next Olympics, and at each tournament, we will improve."

Earlier on Sunday, Jaka Lakovic and Slovenia went on a 24-6 tear in the fourth quarter to beat France 88-74 and claim the final place on offer for next year's pre-Olympic qualifying tournament.

The Slovenians, just 2-of-15 from 3-point range in the first three quarters, went into the final period trailing 57-51.

They made 7-of-9 from the arc during that game-winning run with Jaka Lakovic, who led Slovenia with 26 points, making 4-of-4 from long range in that stretch.

They finished 8-of-10 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter.

Dirk Nowitzki said good-bye to the EuroBasket by pouring in a game-high 31 points to lead Germany to an 80-71 victory over Croatia.

The result means that Germany finished fifth in the EuroBasket and Croatia sixth.

Both teams lost their quarter-final games but prevailed in classification matches on Saturday to clinch spots in next year's pre-Olympic qualifying tournament.

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