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Serbs collapse

Before it started, our first goal was the semifinals and we knew we could do it. We knew we could play like we did tonight

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GABRIEL Deck and Argentina shock Serbia in the quarterfinals of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. AFP

DONGGUAN, China — Argentina’s grand old man Luis Scola knocked down a series of key buckets in a fourth quarter run to crush Serbian hopes and propel the South Americans into the semifinals of the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Dongguan in southern China.

Scola, 39 years old and the last remaining member of Argentina’s “Golden Generation” that won the Olympics in 2004, finished with a team-high 20 points in a fast-paced 97-87 win.

The outcome leaves Argentina undefeated in the World Cup and headed for a Friday matchup against the winner of USA-France battle that tips off on Wednesday.

For the Serbs, shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings led all scorers with 21 points while Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic added 16 in the quarterfinal contest.

Despite Scola’s late heroics, Player of the Game honors went to Argentine guard Facundo Campazzo, who kept the Serbs on their heels the entire game by relentlessly pushing the ball upcourt.

Campazzo, who plays his pro ball in Spain, finished with a double-double performance of 18 points, 12 assists and three steals.

“Before it started, our first goal was the semifinals and we knew we could do it. We knew we could play like we did tonight,” Campazzo said.

The outcome was a bitter disappointment for the Serbians, who are packed with NBA talent and had title hopes after demolishing their opponents in the group phases by a average 40.8 points per game.

But the Serbs, led by do-it-all center Jokic, were rattled by a second-round 69-81 loss to Spain on Sunday.

That seemed to carry over into the quarterfinals as they were never quite able to get in sync against the quick Argentines, who seemed to be moving in another gear under Campazzo’s direction.

Trailing most of the game, Serbia looked like it was about to take control when it grabbed a 70-68 fourth quarter lead on a three-pointer by the Memphis Grizzlies’ Marko Guduric.

That’s when Scola stepped up, scoring eight rapid-fire points in a 21-6 Argentina run that dropped the curtain on Serbia’s World Cup hopes.

“We believed it. It wasn’t impossible. We have a great team and we have great energy,” said Argentina forward Patricio Garino.

As his salt-and-pepper hair shows, Scola is by far the oldest player in the relatively young Argentina squad.

But Scola, who played for several NBA teams in the past and now roams the paint for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association, has turned back the clock in the World Cup, the only major international trophy he has not won.

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