Slovenia beat Spain to earn first EuroBasket final ever
Istanbul, 14 September - The Slovenian men's national basketball team made it to their first EuroBasket final appearance ever as they defeated reigning European champions Spain 92:72 in the semi-finals in Istanbul on Thursday. Slovenia thus secured their first medal at the European basketball championships in history.
Although playing only their second semi-finals match in the history of the EuroBasket, Slovenia were not afraid of the heavily favoured Spain, which have dominated European basketball for more than a decade.
Slovenia had a seven-point lead on two occasions in the first quarter against Spain, which fielded six NBA players and were a clear favourite. The period ended with Slovenia leading 25:19.
Slovenia survived an initial attack by Spain at the start of the second quarter, with Spain cutting the lead to two points on two occasions, and ended the fist half leading by four points (49:45).
Spain was scoreless in the first three minutes of the third quarter as Slovenia opened their biggest lead to that moment (55:45). But this was not enough for the Slovenians as they kept pushing and increased the lead by the end of the period to 16 points (73:57).
The last period was a formality as Slovenia did not let the Spaniards come closer than some 15 points and earned their first final appearance and first medal ever at the EuroBasket.
Head coach Igor Kokoškov was first to address the press after the win, saying that "we were not afraid, we knew that we could play against this team ... the guys are great, all the credit to them".
Guard Klemen Prepelič, who was the second-leading scorer for Slovenia, was feeling "phenomenal", saying that Slovenia had bene playing a team game, which encouraged the team to "go for the gold".
Captain Goran Dragić, who is probably playing his last major tournament for Slovenia, added that "we will not let go now when we have come so far. One more game on Sunday, if I'm not mistaken, and that's it".
Slovenia's teenage prodigy Luka Dončić praised the entire team and the Slovenian fans who showed up in Istanbul. "This is for them and I hope that we get to the gold. We only have to win one more game and we are going one hundred percent!".
Slovenia will be chasing gold against the winner of the other semi-final match between Russia and Serbia, which will be played on Friday.