Slovenia wins Eurobasket 2017, beating Serbia 93-85 in final

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 17.09.2017 23:31
Updated 18.09.2017 16:06
Slovenia's players celebrate with their trophy after defeating Serbia at the end of the FIBA Eurobasket 2017 men's Final basketball match between Slovenia and Serbia at Sinan Erdem Sport Arena in Istanbul on September 17, 2017. (AFP Photo)
Slovenia's players celebrate with their trophy after defeating Serbia at the end of the FIBA Eurobasket 2017 men's Final basketball match between Slovenia and Serbia at Sinan Erdem Sport Arena in Istanbul on September 17, 2017. (AFP Photo)

Slovenia have won their first ever gold medal in EuroBasket 2017 and become Europe's champions after defeating Serbia 93-85 in Istanbul on Sunday.

The thriller at Sinan Erdem Dome saw undefeated Slovenia taking on Serbia, who only lost once in group stage.

Slovenia, as expected, displayed a great scoring performance in the first half, as they did throughout the campaign, scoring 56 points.

Serbia did not give up and fought their back in the third and fourth quarters, and managed to even the score at 82-82 with 3:22 to go in the final.

However, Slovenians managed to go on a 10-0 run to claim their first ever title in the tournament history.

Slovenia's captain NBA star Goran Dragic, who retired after tonight's final from international basketball, was essential for his team in the final. He scored a game-high 35 points.

Shooting guard Klemen Prepelic accompanied Dragic with 21 points, center Anthony Randolph also chipped in 11 points.

After beating their former Yugoslav sister republic Slovenians celebrated the small country's long-awaited basketball title well into Monday morning.

The Slovenian fans' chant, "Who doesn't jump, he ain't Slovenian," accompanied with collective jumping, echoed through the streets of Ljubljana and other cities, the daily Dnevnik said.

"Slovenian basketball fever peaked during the night of the EuroBasket final. Two million basketball fans celebrated the gold after nail-biting in front of their TVs," it added.

But the fever is set to continue through the day, when the championship team returns for a welcome in central Ljubljana. For the event, the state railway has introduced a special: anybody dressed as a fan has a free train ride.

"Not just undefeated, but undefeatable!" screamed a headline in the Ljubljana daily Vecer.

The daily noted that Slovenia, with 2.1 million inhabitants, claimed the title of a European basketball champion with the smallest population from previous holders Lithuania.

In spite of its size, Slovenia was a major contributor to the Yugoslav powerhouse which dominated the non-NBA basketball world over much of the last three decades of the 20th century.

Since Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991, Slovenia has fielded several strong teams to major tournaments, but had, despite expectations, never won a medal.

Now, the country's basketball guru Zmago Sagadin proclaimed for the daily Delo, "This is a state holiday."

In the losing camp, in Serbia, expectations were low ahead of the EuroBasket due to the absence of several key players, but the disappointment was also great.

"You're our pride, Slovenia deserved gold," says the headline in the leading daily, Blic.

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