Sun, Sep 25, 2005 - Page 22 News List

Spain to face Germany in basketball semifinal

AP , BELGRADE, SERBIA-MONTENEGRO

Dirk Nowitzki, left, of Germany, controls the ball during a quaterfinal game against Slovenia during the European Championships at Belgrade Arena on Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

Center Fran Vasquez scored with three seconds left to force overtime and Juan Carlos Navarro sank the last 12 points for Spain to beat Croatia 100-85 in the European Championship quarterfinals on Friday.

Spain set up a semifinal against Germany, which beat Slovenia 76-62 with 22 points from Dirk Nowitzki after shaky shooting at the start.

Greece meets France for a place in Sunday's final.

Croatia led by as many as 12 against Spain, but Vasquez and Navarro combined for 16 points in the third quarter to help Spain pull away by six.

At the end of regulation with Croatia up by three, Navarro made a free throw but missed the second, and Vasquez grabbed the rebound and put it in to tie the game at 73.

"We were seconds away from heaven, but instead we fell into the hell," said Croatia center Nikola Vujcic, who was furious with the refereeing and the hostile Belgrade crowd. "It was clear that someone did not want Croatia to do well here in Serbia."

Croatia got two technical fouls late in overtime and Navarro made 12 straight free throws in the finish to close the game. He finished with 36 points, making 18 of 21 free throws. Spain had 49 free throws and made 38 of them.

"Our start was slow, but we got better as the match progressed," said Jorge Garbajosa, who had 14 points for Spain. "In the end, a bit of luck gave us this difficult win."

Vasquez added 26 points and nine rebounds.

For Croatia Gordan Giricek had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Roko-Leni Ukic and Marko Popovic added 15 each.

Unlike Slovenia, which had 10,000 fans in the Belgrade Arena, plus the support of about 8,000 home Serbian fans, the Croatian team got a noisy, hostile reception.

Germany's Nowitzki might have also been affected -- he had a cold shooting game except from the foul line.

"I didn't play so well, but this time my teammates made it up. The three pointers they made in the final quarter broke the game in our favor," the NBA All-Star said.

Guard Mithat Demirel shot 100 percent from the field and went 4-for-5 from the foul line to add 15 points. Pascal Roller also had 15 and Demond Greene scored 10.

Center Patrick Femerling had 10 rebounds.

"Winning this game is like getting the gold medal," Germany's guard Marko Pesic said.

Germany went 11-for-23 from the 3-point range, while Slovenia made six off 22 attempts and shot only 59 percent from the foul line.

Nowitzki, the tournament's leading scorer and rebounder, went 2-for-8 from 3-point range and made 2 of 10 for two points but he made some key baskets and also grabbed nine rebounds.

The Germans quickly established control with a tough defense and led 21-12 after the first quarter. They didn't score again for 5{ minutes.

But Slovenia failed to capitalize on Germany's slump and it was 34-34 at halftime.

With Germany leading by seven at the start of the fourth, Roller made two consecutive three-points shots, Greene added another and Nowitzki made one as Germany took a decisive 17 points lead with five minutes left.

"We achieved a small sensation no one believed we could do," Germany coach Dirk Bauermann said.

Slovenia got 13 points apiece from Sani Becirovic and Primoz Brezec.

Earlier Friday, Lithuania beat Russia 89-78 in a consolation game to qualify for next year's world championship in Japan.

The victory assured Lithuania of finishing either fifth or sixth, good enough to clinch a spot in Japan. The top six qualify for the worlds.

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