Most of the members of the Slovenian basketball team charged towards Luka Doncic moments after the final bell rang on Sunday, determined to carry him on their shoulders and carry their best player around the court to celebrate.
He lifted them up, then they lifted him up.
Doncic and Slovenia are heading to the Olympics for the first time, after winning 96-85 in Lithuania on Sunday to secure a spot in the Tokyo Games. Doncic, the MVP of the tournament in Kaunas, Lithuania, was simply brilliant: 31 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, the first triple-double by any player in any of the four Olympic qualifying tournaments played last week to determine the last four teams on the olympic field.
“I don’t care about the MVP,” Doncic said. “We won here. We are going to the Olympics, the first time in our country. It’s amazing. I think all children dream of being in the Olympics. I did too. Here we are. We fought very, very hard and I think we deserve to be here. “
The game was tied 52-52 at halftime, and Slovenia opened the third on an 11-2 streak. Lithuania eventually came close to 71-69, but Slovenia’s 14-0 run put Doncic’s club in control forever.
And when the last seconds passed, Doncic threw his arms skyward in celebration.
“We are making history for our country,” Doncic said. “We can just go up from here.”
Lithuania was one of four nations to host the Olympic qualifiers that ended on Sunday, all four were winner-take-all events, with one team from each region participating in the Tokyo field.
And the four local teams, who thought they had great advantages by being at home, did not make it to the Olympics. Slovenia beat Lithuania in the final, Croatia and Canada lost the semi-finals, and reigning Olympic silver medalist Serbia was stunned in a regional final against Italy on Sunday.
“A great disappointment,” Lithuania coach Darius Maskoliunas said. “We lost at home. We expected a better result. “
Slovenia will be placed in Group C for the Tokyo Games, one of three groups of four teams at the Olympics. Slovenia will play Argentina on July 26, Japan on July 29 and reigning World Cup champion Spain on August 1. The top two teams in each group, plus two wild cards, will reach the Olympic quarterfinals.
“It’s one of the best feelings,” Doncic said. “We work hard for this.”
Vlatko Cancar scored 18 for Slovenia, who got 16 from Jaka Blazic and 13 from Mike Tobey.
Jonas Valanciunas, Arnas Butkevicius and Mantas Kalnietis each scored 14 for Lithuania, which will miss the Olympics for the first time since gaining independence from the Soviet Union; he had been to each of the last seven Olympics, beginning in 1992.
Eimantas Bendzius scored 11 and Marius Grigonis added 10 for Lithuania.
BELGRADE, REGION OF SERBIA
ITALY 102, SERBIA 95
Italy entered Serbia and managed a stun, eliminating the team that finished second behind the United States at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Nico Mannion scored 24 points, Achille Polonara scored 22 and Italy reached the Olympics for the first time since the 2004 Athens Games, up to 24 points ahead of a stunned stadium in Belgrade.
Simone Fontecchio scored 21, Stefano Tonut added 15 and Alessandro Pajola added 10 for Italy. The Italians will form Group B at the Tokyo Olympics, facing Germany, another winner on Sunday, July 25, Australia on July 28 and Nigeria on July 31.
Danilo Andjusic scored 27 for Serbia, while Filip Petrusev scored 22 and Ognjen Dobric added 17.
VICTORIA, CANADA REGION
CZECH REPUBLIC 97, GREECE 72
Patrik Auda led a balanced effort with 20 points on 8 of 9 shots, and the Czech Republic, who stayed alive in the tournament by winning a couple of games to the end, are heading to the Olympics for the first time after fleeing. from Greece.
Jan Vesely (16), Jaromir Bohacik (15), Ondrej Balvin (14) and Tomas Satoransky (12) hit double digits for the Czechs, who beat Uruguay by one point only to reach the semifinals and then beat Canada by two points in extra time. to make the final.
The Czech Republic will be in Group A at the Tokyo Games, facing Iran on July 25, France on July 28 and the United States on July 31.
Giorgios Papagiannis scored 14 for Greece, who got 12 points from both Konstantinos Mitoglou and Giannoulis Larentzakis, and 11 from Kostas Sloukas.
SPLIT, CROATIA REGION
GERMANY 75, BRAZIL 64
Moritz Wagner scored 28 points and Germany returns to the Olympics for the first time since 2008, after beating Brazil to win the qualifying tournament in Split, Croatia.
Robin Benzing scored 13 points and Maodo Lo scored 10 for Germany, which is seeking its first Olympic medal in men’s basketball.
Germany will be in Group B at the Tokyo Games, facing Italy on July 25, Nigeria on July 28 and Australia on July 31.
Anderson Varejao scored 14 points and Alex Garcia finished with 10 for Brazil.