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China miss chance to change history in men's basketball
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It is the end of the third quarter and China led world champions Spain 61-47.

The packed Wukesong Indoor Stadium audience was too excited to wait for the two-minute breaking time to start the decisive fourth period and they began to played Mexican waves.

Fans roared and waved until the players re-entered the court, a scene that was even not seen in Sunday's China vs. U.S. match.

This was the best chance to produce one of the biggest surprises in Chinese basketball history as China never won over Spain in their previous five meetings at the Olympics.

It is almost the same Spaniard squad which won the 2006 world championship and beat China twice, 83-58 and 92-76, at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

After losing to the United States 101-70 on the debut, China were desperate for a win to boost their chance to enter the quarterfinals from a strong preliminary-round group, which features world runners-up Greece, Germany and Angola as well.

China's only victory against Spain was a 78-76 one at the 1994 World Championships at Toronto, Canada, with Spain having a 8-1 record over China.

Zhu Fangyu's 3-pointer stopped Spain's first wave of rally to make it 64-51 for China. But The Spaniards scored the next 10 points and used a 21-8 run to pull the game into overtime by 72 to all.

Pau Gasol fired Spain up with consecutive baskets and forced out the fifth fouls on Chinese pivot Yao Ming with 2:28 minutes left on the clock. China were dampened and the 11,000 fans were silenced.

Four years ago at the Athens Games, China stunned former world champions Serbia & Montenegro 67-66 to book a berth in the top eight. Two years ago at the Japan World Championships, China surprised Slovenia 78-77 on Wang Shipeng's beat-the-buzzer 3-pointer.

China, however, failed to create another miracle on their homeland this time when Spain proved a much better team than the previous victims of China's successes.

"It's a very regrettable loss. We took double-digit number leading even at the start of the fourth quarter, but things changed from then on. We wanted the win too much. We just lost ourselves down the stretch," Chinese captain Li Nan said.

He said four years ago after beating Serbia & Montenegro that the win was the best one in his life. He doesn't have the chance to say it again this time.

After losing two matches, China are in a do-or-die situation when they are to face Angola on Thursday and Germany on Saturday.

Their last game in the group is on Aug. 18 against Greece, which trounced them 95-64 at the WC.

China still have chances.

(Xinhua News Agency August 12, 2008)

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