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Page last updated at 21:12 GMT, Sunday, 20 September 2009 22:12 UK

Spain crowned kings of EuroBasket

Spain"s Pau Gasol (L) is blocked by Serbia"s Nenad Krstic

EuroBasket highlights - Spain triumph in Poland

By Rob Dugdale
BBC Sport at EuroBasket in Poland

Spain became European basketball champions for the first time after beating Serbia 85-63 in the EuroBasket final in Katowice, Poland.

Pau Gasol hit 18 points and Rudy Fernandez added 13 for Spain, who led by 23 points at half-time and coasted to victory in the second half.

Spain now hold both the world and European titles.

All three qualifiers from Warsaw's 'Group of Death', from which GB were eliminated, made the semi-finals.

If Spain were nervous at the start of the final - they had previously played six without winning, three of them in the last 10 years - then three-pointers from Juan Carlos Navarro, Ricky Rubio, Jorge Garbajosa and Fernandez gave them a rhythm as well as an 18-7 lead.

By half-time, that lead was 52-29 and Gasol already had 14 points, eight rebounds and a couple of blocked shots in just 16 and a half minutes on court.

Serbia, who were led by 15 points each from Uros Tripkovic and Novica Velickovic, came back to within 14 points in the third quarter, only for Fernandez to lead a 9-0 run that effectively settled the game for Spain.

Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol hit 18 points for Spain as they claimed victory

Spain had lost to Serbia on the opening night in Group C in Warsaw and came close to elimination in their thrilling match with Great Britain 24 hours later and the blow to their confidence was still affecting them in the second phase in Lodz.

But coach Sergio Scariolo's side demolished hosts Poland with some trademark Champagne basketball to book a place in the quarter-finals and then started to look their old selves.

In the last eight they faced Group E winners France, a team unbeaten to that point but which looked from the opening tip to be about to get nothing but a beating.

France's Tony Parker was kept taken out of the game by the dedicated defensive efforts of Ricky Rubio and Sergio Llull, who ensured he had no chance to work his magic.

Having established their shooting game in the first quarter, Spain went inside to LA Lakers star Gasol, who finished with 28 points in an 86-66 win.

And Greece fared little better against the Spaniards in the semi-final, which became a showcase for the talents of another Spanish NBA star, Fernandez of Portland Trailbalzers, who poured in 14 points in an 82-64 win.

Serbia reached the final by taking the battle of the Balkans with a 96-92 overtime win over Slovenia, whose ongoing injury problems finally caught up with them.

I'm super-proud of my team-mates and coaching staff who got us where we are today

Most Valuable Player Pau Gasol

They seemed to have survived the loss of their star player Erazem Lorbek, who fouled out with 25 points and 10 rebounds with four and a half minutes remaining when his brother Domen took up the slack to finish with 22 points but Serbia's playmaker Milos Teodosic had other ideas.

He hit 24 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including five threes from six attempts, to prevent the Slovenia-Spain final many people might have wanted, especially the (2,000-plus) contingent of Slovene fans that were easily the most vocal in this tournament.

Slovenia, ironically the only team GB managed to beat this summer, also came up short for the bronze medal, losing 57-56 to Greece, for whom giant centre Sofoklis Schortsanitis hit 23 points.

Gasol was deservedly voted the most valuable player of the tournament but typically deflected most of the praise on to his team-mates.

"Obviously I'm extremely happy at the outcome of the game - we've played amazingly well for the last five games and a half," he said.

"I'm super-proud of my team-mates and coaching staff who got us where we are today."

He revealed it was towards the end of the second phase in Poland that his team rediscovered their ability to play together.

"After we lost against Turkey we started to get together - we were aware that we weren't playing collectively," said Gasol, who won the NBA title with the Lakers in June. "We just said we had to get back to playing the way we know how.

"Then against Lithuania we went 25-15 down I think it was, but then we went on a 23-0 run. We played excellently at the end of the championships and that's when the winning matters."

Serbia's veteran coach Dusan Ivkovic bemoaned his side's inability to cope with the pressure of the final.

"I think we were found out a little bit in a pressure situation - for the first time in the tournament we couldn't handle the pressure," said Ivkovic.

"To be sure, our target is to put together a team that will play well at the Olympic Games in London. We came here with the objective of qualifying for the World Championships in Turkey and we've achieved that."

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see also
Serbia defeat ends GB challenge
09 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Brave GB scare world champs Spain
08 Sep 09 |  Basketball
GB suffer loss in European opener
07 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Finch names GB EuroBasket squad
05 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Pops return strengthens GB hopes
02 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Turkey too strong for weakened GB
29 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB 'embarrassing' in latest loss
28 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB gift last-gasp win to Latvia
26 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Great Britain clinch Slovenia win
21 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Lithuania too strong for GB men
20 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB suffer heavy defeat to Spain
19 Aug 09 |  Basketball
In-depth interview - Luol Deng
12 Aug 09 |  Basketball

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