CARACAS, July 8 (RIA Novosti)
Russia and Lithuania have claimed two of the last three berths for the 12-team men's basketball tournament at the London Olympics by making the final of the qualification competition in Venezuela.
Russia beat Nigeria 85-77 in its semifinal, led by former Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko who top-scored on 19 points and eight rebounds. Nigeria had surprised many in getting so far, stunning the Greeks in the quarterfinal.
Lithuania had less trouble in dispatching another surprise package in the Dominican Republic, prevailing 109-83 with Jonas Maciulis leading the way with 19 points.
The two losing semifinalists will compete for the final Olympic spot.
"We all wanted to end it today, no one wanted to delay our qualification for the Olympics to the next game," captain Sergei Monya told R-Sport.
"We've gone through a lot of work, everyone has trained for a month and a half without breaks. ... Now we'll relax a bit and then start preparations for the Olympics," he added.
The Russians had feared that jet lag would hurt their chances of securing a berth in London, and they had also complained about the high security that kept them confined to their hotel in Caracas.
But they will leave Venezuela as London medal contenders, having beaten South Korea 91-56, the Dominican Republic 84-69 and Angola 80-65.
Already qualified for London are host Britain, the United States, Tunisia, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Spain, France and China.
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