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Yugoslavia, Argentina in Final of World Basketball Championships - 2002-09-08

Yugoslavia will have the chance to defend its World Basketball title at the tournament in the mid-western U.S. state of Indiana. Yugoslavia defeated a spirited team from New Zealand on Saturday.

The Kiwis have surprised a few teams at the tournament, and began their semifinal with a quickness and agility Yugoslavia could not match. New Zealand built a 14-point lead despite perhaps the most vocal crowd so far at the World Championship, overwhelmingly in favor of Yugoslavia. But New Zealand could not hold on in the second half as Yugoslavia ground out a physical 89-78 victory.

Yugoslav head coach Svetislav Pesic said his defense came alive. "First we did not think we could lose," he said. "And maybe that is why we played bad defense in the first quarter. We won at the end [because] we played good defense."

After the loss, New Zealand coach Tab Baldwin summed up his team's feelings. "We serve a diplomatic role as all national team representatives in every sport do every time they step out on a court. But that is not what we are or who we are. We are sports people," he said. "We can not feel anything right now but extreme disappointment. But we know that back home, our country is extremely proud of us."

Yugoslavia next faces undefeated Argentina, an 86-80 winner over Germany in the other semifinal.

Also Saturday, Turkey claimed ninth place with a 91-86 win over Russia. Angola finishes at number 11 after beating China, 96-84.