By the Associated Press
The last time Luis Scola went to the semifinals of the World Cup, he was 26 and waiting to bring his long, flowing dark hair to the NBA for the first time.
He’s 39 now. A decade-long career in the NBA has come and gone. The hair is closely cropped now, with plenty of gray mixed in there.
And he’s back in FIBA’s Final Four.
Scola scored 20 points, Facundo Campazzo finished with 18 points and 12 assists and Argentina stunned Serbia 97-87 in the World Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday night. Argentina (6-0) plays next in Friday’s semifinals at Beijing, against the winner of Wednesday’s quarterfinal in Dongguan between the US (5-0) and France (4-1).
“It means a lot,” Scola said.
Serbia was considered the pre-tournament favorite by many and came in expecting to win gold after losing title games to the US at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Argentina had other plans and Scola made a very loud statement after the game — this outcome, he insisted, was no fluke.
“It just bothers me that people keep talking about miracle, keep talking about surprise, keep talking about nobody believing,” Scola said. “I’ll tell you, there were 22 people that believed for the last two months that we were going to be here. That’s all we need, just 22. We’ve got them and this is far from a miracle.”
Patricio Garino added 15 for Argentina.
Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 21 points for Serbia (4-2), which got 18 points from Nemanja Bjelica and a 16-point, 10-rebound effort from All-NBA center Nikola Jokic. Vasilije Micic played 18 minutes for Serbia, after the death of his mother earlier this week.
“We put a lot of work in this summer,” Bjelica said. “It’s hard. But it’s basketball. There are more important things.”
Argentina led most of the way, lost the lead briefly on the first possession of the fourth quarter when Marko Guduric made a 3-pointer for Serbia — which the winners answered with a 19-6 run over the next 6 minutes.
Bogdanovic’s 3-pointer with 1:20 left got Serbia within 91-85. But Campazzo’s jumper on the next possession pushed the lead back to eight, and that’s about when the blue-and-white-clad Argentine fans in the stands knew it was time to celebrate.
“Campazzo absolutely dominated the game,” Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic said of Argentina’s 5-foot-10 point guard, who dazzled throughout. “Absolutely dominated the game. This is his victory.”
Scola said it was a total team effort.
“I think we played a very good basketball game,” Scola said. “We’re a good team. We’ve played a great tournament and we deserved to win.”