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Serbia shocked second-ranked Australia with a 73-71 upset in the women’s basketball quarter-finals on Tuesday to end the Opals’ bid for a sixth straight Olympic medal.
Apart from the United States, who are going for a sixth consecutive gold in Rio, no other nation in the women’s tournament has been as dominant as Australia. They had taken three silvers and two bronze medals from the previous five Olympics.
At each of those Summer Games it was the United States who denied Australia the chance of gold but on Tuesday it was the 14th-ranked Serbians, who sneaked into the last eight as the fourth seeds with an unthreatening 2-3 group record.
“Our coach told us before the game we can play with them, they are not unbeatable,” said Ana Dabovic, who led Serbia on the scoresheet with 24 points.
“Our focus was to fight and play our game and I think we did what our coach told us and really gave us heart.
“I’m proud because we really showed we were not European champions by accident.
“In the end we gave our best, we fought and believed. The main reason we won is because we believed. We didn’t come in here just to fight, we came in to win.”
Serbia let the Australians know early on that they were in for a battle as the first quarter ended deadlocked at 20-20. Australia ground out a slim 37-35 lead at the half.
Coming out of the break the Australians looked ready to take charge, opening up a 48-39 advantage, but the feisty Serbians refused to give way, answering with an 8-0 run to slice the deficit to one point.
In the final quarter the two teams matched each other shot for shot with neither side managing more than a three-point advantage.
Dabovic nailed a jump shot with 27 seconds remaining to help seal the win.
When Australian captain Marianne Tolo’s layup attempt at the buzzer clanged off the rim the Serbian bench ran onto the court dancing in celebration while their dazed opponents looked on in disbelief.
“I’m just heartbroken at the moment,” said Australia’s Rachel Jarry.
Next up for Serbia are the winners of Turkey versus Spain but first forward Sonja
Petrovic and her team mates wanted to take time to savour the upset.
“We always knew what we were capable of, what quality we had but we struggled to finish games,” said Petrovic. “But against Australia we knew it was 40 minutes or you are going home.
“Turkey or Spain we are familiar with both teams, both are amazing but I need at least a day to enjoy this victory because we are so emotionally drained that we need to relax.”