June 28, 2015 / 9:05 PM / 2 years ago

Serbian women seal Olympic berth with European crown

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Serbia won the women’s European basketball championship and a place in the 2016 Olympics after a 76-68 win over hot favorites France on Sunday.

It was the first medal for the Serbians as an independent nation and it surpassed their best achievement as part of the former Yugoslavia, who clinched four silver and two bronze medals.

Having squeezed into the final with a 74-72 win over Belarus, Serbia produced their best performance of the tournament after overcoming an early seven-point deficit against the French.

Playmaker Milica Dabovic sat out the second half with an elbow injury but her sister Ana, a versatile shooting guard named the event’s most valuable player, led the charge with 25 points.

Forward Sonja Petrovic racked up 22 points and seven rebounds while American-born center Danielle Page netted 12 points and collected eight boards for her adopted country.

“This is an incredible success and the girls should be proud of themselves,” Serbia coach Marina Maljkovic told reporters.

“Our captain was injured and missed most of the game but we are a team and it doesn’t matter who is on the court,” she added.

“We want to enjoy the moment,” said Ana Dabovic. “I am overjoyed for the girls and for the whole nation.”

Earlier on Sunday, Spain won the bronze medal after beating Belarus 74-58 in the third-place playoff.

Serbia’s success completed a day of double joy for the Balkan nation after the men’s water polo team also secured a berth at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics with a 9-6 win over Croatia in the World League final in Bergamo, Italy.

Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Alan Baldwin

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