The Dabovic sisters combined for 35 points, and Serbia claimed the final piece of the puzzle for the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Championships, defeating Cuba, 86-79, Wednesday in the final game at Abdi Ipekci Arena.
Now it moves across the Bosphorus Strait to Fenerbahce Arena, where Friday’s game versus host Turkey will take place. The U.S., France, Spain, China, Australia, and Canada are the other teams composing the International Elite Eight.
“I can’t wait until that game,” said Ana Dabovic, who led all players with 21 points. “Turkey’s a really great team, and I hope fans will come and support them, but I sure want a full gym, so we can play our game, fight until the end, and we’ll see, who knows what will happen.”
The Cubans were in a 23-16 lead after the first quarter, but in the early second, Serbia took at 30-29 lead on a Jelena Milovanovic jump shot. Milica Dabovic, Ana’s 32-year-old sister who scored 14, put her nation ahead 35-32 on a three, and Ana also scored 11 in the second. Starting to fall behind, Yamara Amargo hit a late three to bring Cuba within 42-39 at halftime.
Marlen Cepeda, who led her team with 18 points and eight rebounds, returned the lead to Cuba from the free throw line midway through the second, and it remained tight. Tijana Ajdukovic scored a post shot at the horn to chip Cuba’s lead to 62-60.
Milovanovic, the Washington Mystics forward, was wide open for a straight-on three to put Serbia ahead, 63-62, and Ajdukovic increased it to four points at 73-69.
Leidys Oquendo missed the free throw after her field goal that would have cut it to one with two and a half minutes to play, Amargo scored, but Milovanovic again increased it to four, 81-77. Cuba’s Clenia Noblet hit two free throws with just over a minute to play, but Milica scooped it in for two in the lane.
Cuba couldn’t get a quality shot off in the final minute, and the women from the nation of 7 million that is appearing in this event for the first time since breaking away from Yugoslavia iced it from the foul line.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Milovanovic, who scored 17 with nine rebounds. “I’m so happy we made it to the quarterfinals, it was a hard game for my team.”
Amargo scored 17 in the game for Cuba, and Oyanaisy Gelis had 16 points and eight assists.
“That’s a great sports nation, they played with a lot of grit and a lot of heart,” Serbia coach Marina Maljkovic said. “We expect a great atmosphere (against Turkey), we will have to play at the level we played against Angola and especially against the States.”