By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia booked their first Olympic basketball berth as an independent nation after a strong first quarter helped them beat Puerto Rico 108-77 in the final of one of three qualifying tournaments on Saturday.
Italy were playing Croatia on home court in Turin in a match held up for 15 minutes in the first half after the electronic scoreboard malfunctioned, while France meet Canada for the last remaining berth in Manila on Sunday.
Having edged Puerto Rico 87-81 in the group stage of the week-long tournament, Serbia found another gear against the same opposition in the final as they were roared on by 17,123 home fans in the Belgrade Arena.
The visitors scored the first three points of the game but the Serbians sank the next 24 en route to a 37-4 run which propelled them into a 60-27 halftime lead.
The home side kept their feet on the gas pedal after the interval as shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic finished with 26 points and Denver Nuggets power forward Nikola Jokic added 23.
Serbia joined host nation Brazil, Olympic champions United States, Spain, Lithuania, Argentina, Australia, China, Venezuela and Nigeria at the Aug 5-21 games in Rio de Janeiro.
(Editing by Andrew Both)