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Spain eases into Euro cage semis

SERBIA’S Nemanja Bjelica (right) goes to the basket against Rudy Fernandez (left) and Pablo Aguilar of Spain

LJUBLJANA (AFP) – Two-time reigning champions Spain eased past Serbia 90-60 Wednesday to reach the European basketball championships semi-finals where they will take on France in a rematch of the 2011 final.

France moved into the final four with a 72-62 win over Slovenia – at the same time booking a spot in the 2014 World Cup, which will take place in Spain next summer.

France, who lost to Spain 98-85 in the 2011 final in Kaunas, were paced by their NBA star trio.

San Antonio Spurs superstar Tony Parker scored 27 points while Portland Trailblazers forward Nicolas Batum had 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Spurs forward Boris Diaw added 10 points and six rebounds.

France came into the game as the tournament’s number one scoring offence but Slovenia held them to just two baskets in the first quarter.

France used a 10-0 run early in the third quarter to gain a 10-point lead and then a 7-0 spurt in the fourth period re-established the 10-point advantage and France held on.

Slovenia were paced by Goran Dragic’s 18 points and six assists while Zoran Dragic had 12 points and five rebounds in the loss.

In the day’s first quarter-final, Spain were never challenged against Serbia with Sergio Rodriguez scoring 22 points and Rudy Fernandez collecting 19 points. Marc Gasol added seven points, five rebounds and six assists for Spain.

“We played the best game until now in the tournament,’’ said Spain coach Juan Orenga.

“It’s just one more step. Now we have the next one. Our ambition from the beginning was to try to fight for the medals, try to fight for the gold medal. We will keep on that, knowing that the next game will maybe be tougher than today.’’

Spain dominated Serbia from the very start with the first eight points of the game and allowed just one basket in the quarter for a 21-5 lead with Fernandez scoring 13 points.

Rodriguez took over the second quarter with 14 points – 11 of them coming in a 17-3 run which essentially decided the game as it put Spain ahead 43-17.

Spain never slowed down in the third quarter, increasing the lead to 40 points and easing to the win.

The remaining quarter-finals will be Croatia v Ukraine followed by the night-capper Lithuania v Italy on Thursday.