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Kirilenko leads Russia to European Championship

Kirilenko leads Russia to European Championship



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By PAUL LOGOTHETIS Associated Press Writer

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Jon Robert Holden scored with two seconds remaining Sunday to lift Russia over Spain 60-59 in the final of the European Basketball Championship.

Holden stripped Spain center Pau Gasol with 27 seconds to play then pump-faked before his jump shot bounced high and in for the win. Gasol's jumper at the buzzer rattled out as time expired.

"This was a victory of David over Goliath. We faced the beast and knocked him down and won," Russia coach David Blatt said. "It's a historic event. I'm proud to be the person in charge of this historic journey."

Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko led Russia with 17 points as the Russians won their first European title in 22 years.

"This is the best achievement of my career. To beat the Spanish team in Spain was a very tough challenge," tournament MVP Kirilenko said. "We stayed together as a team and won this game."

Spain shot a tournament low 29 percent from the floor (17-of-59) and was outscored 26-10 in the post.

"We're not going to wash our dirty laundry in public," said Spain coach Pepu Hernandez when asked what went wrong. "This is still a very strong team, an exemplary one in fact. For me, it's the best Spanish team in history."

Jorge Garbajosa's 3-pointer put Spain in front after Russia had led for the first time when the American-born Holden made a layup at 9:02 to make it 51-49.

"From the fourth quarter you could feel them tightening up," Blatt said. "

But Gasol, who finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds, struggled from the foul line in the last five minutes -- making only 4-of-9. His last miss left the hosts leading 60-54 with 1:48 to play.

With 59 seconds to go, Kirilenko stole the ball from Carlos Jimenez to set up Nikita Morgunov as Russia narrowed the deficit to 59-58.

Kirilenko spent some time on the bench earlier in the game because he had four fouls. But before that, the Utah Jazz forward kept Russia in the game on successive plays in the third quarter, setting up Victor Khryapa for a reverse layup, blocking forward Felipe Reyes' dunk and making a 3-pointer to cut it to 43-39 with 4:12 to go.

Russia last won the European title when it was still the former Soviet Union.

Crown Prince Felipe presented the Russian players, led by the American-Israeli Blatt, with gold medals in front of the capacity crowd of 15,500 that hoped world champion Spain could win the title on its sixth try.

"It feels very nice, a little heavy," said Blatt while juggling the round, chunky gold trophy. "People say I should be getting a call from (Russian President Vladimir) Putin any time."

In the bronze-medal game, Lithuania qualified for next year's Beijing Olympics by finishing third after beating defending champion Greece 78-69.

Greece advanced to next year's pre-Olympic qualifying tournament.

Lithuania guard Sarunas Jasikevicius was upset with playing on each of the last three days.

"There's got to be some kind of respect for the team that finishes first in the group," the Golden State Warriors guard said. "No disrespect to Russia, but this is the reason we're not in the final. This is not right."

Greece coach Panagiotis Giannakis agreed that his team wasn't at its best because of the scheduling.

"The competition has to be equal, that's all," Giannakis said. "You can't play one team with 24 hours rest and another with 48 hours."

Earlier, Slovenia also joined Germany and Croatia in the pre-Olympic qualifying competition by beating France 88-74.

Tony Parker led France with 31 points. His jump shot near the end of the third quarter put France ahead 57-51, but Lakovic led Slovenia on a 21-4 run.

"We were looking for some stability and to try to go to the Olympics and now we are back to zero," Parker said. "It's kind of tough. We just have to use this as experience."

Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to give Germany an 80-71 win over Croatia in another consolation game.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-09-16-07 1649MDT

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