Spain are not just the current kings of Europe, they’re the queens of it now, too.
Alba Torrens led Spain with 21 points and Sancho Lyttle got her customary double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds as Spain claimed Eurobasket Women’s gold by edging France 70-69 on Sunday night in Orchies, and the hosts, once again having to settle for their second runners-up podium finish in under a year.
Spain were by far the best team of the tournament, they won 7 of their 9 games by double digits and for Lyttle, who averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds a game, her reward was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player trophy.
“When I came here, everybody was talking about finishing among the first five teams, and I come from America, I wanted to win the gold,” Lyttle said.
“This final was a tough game, both teams fought a lot and at the end we won only by one.”
“We are the European Champions,” Spain coach Lucas Mondelo beamed. “Having come here through qualifications, with young players, playing against the hosts, playing against the best roster, silver medallists at the Olympic Games to win against the best roster, we had to be the best, and we were.”
Despite the overall heroics of Torrens and Lyttle – it was Silvia Dominguez who came up big when it mattered. The energetic point guard scored a quick fire five points in just over a minute in a nerve-racking fourth period – to give her side the lead – and despite being pegged back they didn’t trail again.
In front of a sell-out crowd of 5,500, the hosts gave it there all, but left themselves with too much to do in the end. Sandrine Gruda led France with 25 points. Her last bucket with seconds left was a two-pointer instead of the three they needed to force overtime. France were 1 point short; so near, but not enough.
“Congratulations to Spain, they played at a very high level,” French coach Pierre Vincent said. “We had intensity to play against them but this is basketball; we did our best. I have to tell my players that it is time to forget.”
The Spanish wasted no time as they pressured France into numerous, and at the same time, tuned them into points at the other end as Spain led 21-12 after one. The home fans silenced – for the time being.
France fought back in the second quarter; they held Spain scoreless for a period of five minutes. And in turn, a 13-0 run gave the hosts the lead and sent the crowd into hysterics.
Torrens though responded, as she hit back to make sure the Spaniards led at half 36-35.
The hosts came back again, the lead changed on occasions, only this time it was France who led 55-53 heading into the final ten minutes of the tournament.
The crowd, which included NBA player and French international Boris Diaw were on the edge of their seats; the intensity inside the Publeco Pevele Arena, evident.
But after those ten minutes had slowly passed, it was Spain decorated in confetti.
Turkey claim bronze
Earlier in the day, Turkey defeated Serbia 92-71 to claim the final spot on the Eurobasket Women 2013 podium in Orchies.
In a free-scoring game, Serbia led 44-43 at half-time and that was when the strong Turks took control, breezing clear thanks to a 14-0 run, which ended the game as a contest. Nevriye Yilmaz led the winners with 19 points but it was the double-double of 18 points and 16 rebounds from Quanitra Hollingsworth that proved the big difference in the game.
“I felt as though I didn’t come out and play in the semi-final against France,” said Hollingsworth.
“So, I felt it was important that I made a statement in this game and it feels good to come away with a medal.”
This game showed Turkey’s strength in depth, as four players reached double figures in scoring and they also out-rebounded their opponents 48-27. Serbia battled, but it was too much.