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September 18, 2009

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Spain, Serbia clinch spots in European quarters

WORLD champion Spain pounded Poland 90-68 and Serbia used a late run to beat Lithuania 89-79 on Wednesday to clinch the final two spots in the quarterfinals at the European championship in Lodz.

Spain never trailed against an overmatched Poland, and appears to finally be finding its rhythm after struggling earlier in the tournament.

Guard Juan Carlos Navarro led the world champions with 23 points, while Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol chipped in with 20 points and five rebounds. American-born point guard David Logan led Poland with 20 points.

"We had a good performance today," Gasol said. "We are growing as a team and we are very much alive in the tournament."

Spain, which is looking for its first European title after finishing runner-up six times, faces a stiff test in the quarterfinals against France.

Led by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, the French team cruised through the first two rounds undefeated.

"It will be a tough game against France but we have to go through them to get anything done here," Gasol said. "We very much look forward to it."

Serbia clinched the other quarterfinal spot up for grabs in Group F with a late barrage of 3-pointers to beat Lithuania 89-79.

Trailing 71-75 almost halfway through the fourth quarter, Serbia hit six straight 3-pointers over the next three minutes while holding Lithuania to one bucket to lead 89-77.

Point guard Milos Teodosic scored 20 points and handed out 12 assists to lead five Serbian players in double figures.

Center Nenad Krstic, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, chipped in with 16 points and four rebounds.

"It was a very tough game for us, but it's a great win and we just need to forget about this and prepare for tomorrow's game," Krstic said.

Serbia moves on to play defending champion Russia in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday's loss dropped Lithuania, a traditional power in the sport, to 1-6 in the tournament and last place in Group F.

"We controlled the game but they played patiently and killed us with late 3-pointers," said Lithuania coach Ramunas Butautas, who announced after the loss that he was stepping down as coach.

Slovenia nabbed the top spot in Group F, beating Turkey 69-67 to hand the Turks their first loss of the tournament.


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