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Victorious Spain salute Australia
RIO DE JANEIRO (Rio 2016 Olympic Games) - It may end up being called the greatest Olympic Bronze Medal Game of all time, an 89-88 Spain triumph over Australia.
The teams traded blows for 40 minutes and Spain, after a couple of Sergio Rodriguez free-throws with less than six seconds remaining, clinched a medal at a third straight Summer Games here in Rio de Janeiro.
Rodriguez and Spain celebrate their win over Australia
The Boomers, hoping to capture a first-ever medal at an Olympics or a FIBA Basketball World Cup, suffered an excruciating one point defeat.
"It was a great result for our team, the way everything started out, the two losses," said Spain's Pau Gasol, who had a game-high 31 points. Spain fell to Croatia and Brazil by a combined three points in their first couple of Group B contests.
"It was an incredible battle for two teams that wanted an Olympic medal. I'm just proud of our medal, which we got through adversity. I'm proud of what we have done for so many years. I congratulate Australia because they competed their butts off but unfortunately they didn't get the win."
"They deserved an Olympic medal. There is a lot of disappointment and heartache in that locker room at the moment. I'm just proud to be associated with this group of players and the way they represented Australia on the international stage." - Australia coach Andrej Lemanis
Spain coach Sergio Scariolo has now led Spain to three of the last four EuroBasket titles, a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and a bronze at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
"We're proud and happy with this accomplishment," he said. "We made it again after a really, really tough game. "Our opponent was so tough and fought literally to the last second. They had just one bad game and were a very tough and competitive opponent."
That bad game for Australia happened 48 hours earlier. It was a horror show as Serbia completely shut them down defensively in the first half and beat them, 87-61.
Australia players after the final buzzer
Andrej Lemanis' team showed tremendous resolve and spirit on Sunday. The players went after victory like their lives depended on it. When it was over, Lemanis got choked up in the press conference.
"I'm just proud of our group and the way the way they stuck together throughout this tournament," he said.
"They deserved an Olympic medal. There is a lot of disappointment and heartache in that locker room at the moment. I'm just proud to be associated with this group of players and the way they represented Australia on the international stage.
"The result didn't come out the way we wanted and felt like we deserved, but we went about playing the right way ...'
Much of the attention in the mixed zone and the press conference concerned the foul that was called on Patty Mills, Australia's leading scorer with 30 points, on Rodriguez when the Spanish point guard drove into the lane with several seconds to go.
Mills was on the losing end despite another brilliant performance
"It's frustrating when their last four points come from the free-throw line on what you would suggest are relatively soft calls," Lemanis said. "Two-hands on foul on that last (Australia) possession, there are two hands all over the place. It's what you choose to call and what you choose to let go. In particularly a situation like that, it is hard to swallow..."
Mills was asked about it.
"This is what happens in big basketball games," he said. "Things go your way sometimes, things don't go your way sometimes. You control the 'controllables'.
The San Antonio star, who will be a Spurs teammate of Gasol this season, says Australia did not do what they set out to.
But he also said: "I think the biggest thing is to know how much passion these boys had to put on the green and gold. This is what it's all about. You leave everything on the floor. We just hope that everyone back home can feel like they were on the journey with us."