Aug. 10, 2008
RIGA, Latvia - Washington State University men's basketball rising-junior, Nikola Koprivica, and his Serbian team captured the gold Sunday after defeating Lithuania, 96-89, in the championship game of the 2008 U20 European Championship.
"It means so much to win because it takes a lot to be the European Champion," Koprivica said. "It means even more because this is probably the last time we will all be playing together in the same age group, so it's great to be able to take home the championship in our final competition together. I'm just so happy I played, and to be the team's captain was a great honor."
The champion of Group F, Serbia finished the championship with a 5-1 record, while Group E champion Lithuania dropped to 4-2 to pick up the silver. Sunday's game was Serbia's seventh game in 10 days, but fatigue was never an issue for the Serbians.
"You never get tired when you're playing for a championship," Koprivica said. "I will probably be tired tomorrow, but right now I'm not."
A native of Belgrade, Serbia, Koprivica came off the bench to score five points in 11 minutes of action. Koprivica, the lone captain of the team, added three rebounds, two assists and a steal. He hit his only 3-point attempt of the game.
"Lithuania is a good shooting team but we played pretty well," Koprivica said. "We started off pretty well. They're a good team so they came back a little bit, but I think our aggression and our big guys made this happen. We just played our game and got the win."
Milan Macvan led Serbia with 31 points. Marko Keslij added 20 points, while Miroslave Raduljica, the MVP of the competition, put up a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Martynas Gecevicius and Donatas Motiejunas led Lithuania with 16 points apiece.
Serbia, which led 29-27 after the first quarter, extended its lead to 11 (53-42) at the half, sparked by a 24-15 advantage in the second period. Lithuania used a solid third quarter to pull within seven points (72-65) heading into the fourth quarter.
Lithuania opened the fourth strong, cutting Serbia's lead to one at 79-78 with six minutes to go. Serbia extended its lead to as many as 10 in the final period, before a 3-pointer by Lithuania in the final seconds gave the Serbians a seven-point victory.
Spain defeated Turkey to capture bronze at the championship. Montenegro (fifth), Italy (sixth), France (seventh) and Ukraine (eighth) rounded out the top eight teams.