How Serbia rose from the ashes to win bronze
RIO DE JANEIRO (Rio 2016 Olympic Games) - No team in the history of the Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament has ever accomplished the impressive feat which Serbia pulled off at the Rio Olympics.
After a poor start to their Group B campaign, which saw them lose their first three games, the Serbians emerged from the ashes to become the tournament's sensation, winning a bronze medal in their first-ever Olympics appearance.
Serbia came out of nowhere to win bronze in Rio de Janeiro
How they accomplished this impressive turnaround is down to the team's mastermind, head coach Marina Maljkovic.
Minutes after Serbia lost to Canada and dropped to 2-0 in the Group Phase, Maljkovic revealed how she and her team would turn things around.
Considered the Queen of Serbian basketball, Marina Maljkovic led her country to the title at EuroBasket Women 2015
Even with the prospect of facing the USA two days later, she insisted there was no need to panic.
"We are the European champions," the play caller said at the time. "We accept this responsibility and we know that we have to win games and move on. There is nothing else to say. There is no magic there. We just need to keep our group together, and there is nothing else to invent. I believe in my team's capability and I am sure they will respond positively."
What happened next was what an impressive turn of events.
By the time the Serbians forced the Americans to turn the ball over 20 times - despite the 110-84 loss - Maljkovic felt her team was ready to roll.
After wins over China and Senegal that enabled them to reach the Final Phase, Serbia then had a defining 73-71 Quarter-Final triumph over Australia and signed off by beating France, 70-63, in the Bronze Medal Game.
Olympics: Sloppy Opals eliminated by Serbia as team rue missed opportunities https://t.co/rURUOyMMVB by @cp_chalmers pic.twitter.com/877acY7BsA— The Pick and Roll (@PickandRollAU) August 16, 2016
How great was that?
End of the game, France-Serbia... pic.twitter.com/oydSdlcGvO— Women Reflex (@womenreflex) August 20, 2016
Jelena Milovanovic, the team's leading scorer, told FIBA.com that the triumph meant the world to the team.
And there was further reward to be had and enjoyed as Serbia moved up five places to No. 9 in the FIBA World Ranking Women.