by Paul Nilsen
Reigning champions Spain will get the opportunity to defend their title after booking their place in tomorrows final against Belgium with a truly brutal 66-46 massacre of Russia.
The victory was achieved via an astonishing whirlwind first half. It left the Russian team suffering terminal storm damage and completely blown out of sight - their dreams of gold gone after a disastrous twenty minutes.
Spain will now fight for another gold medal against a team that they blew away when they first stepped onto court in Naples during the Group stages. Ironically since that encounter, Belgium have won every game and Spain have lost twice, a fact that further whets the appetite for the climax of a superb tournament.
|Inmaculada Zanoguera was one of three players with 10 points and also added 5 rebounds|
Spanish Coach Jose Hernandez was already looking ahead to the clash seconds after his team finished celebrating on the court.
"Everything was good in the game for us tonight, especially in the first quarter because of our defence and we were able to get a big lead in the game."
"Belgium are a very balanced team and they have definitely played the best basketball in this Championship."
"Both sides know each other well and Belgium are a great team with three really great players in Vanloo the point guard, Meesseman at center and Delvaux at the three position."
"I know that both players will be tired and we will now have to just wait and see which team reacts and has the strength to win the game."
Both teams headed into the semi-final off the back of wins but in very different circumstances. Spain ruthlessly blowing away the Czech Republic and Russia with a tight overtime win against hosts Italy.
Perhaps taking advantage of some tired looking legs, Spain got off to a flying start with a 9-2 burst in the early exchanges as Andrea Vilaro converted a downtown score from the wing. This was quickly followed by a tough inside move by Zanoguera who also drew the foul after capitalising on some poor Russian ball handling
It caused Coach Arkhipova Von Kalmanovich to call a time-out after just three minutes and when both teams returned to the court, things then began to crumble even further for Russia.
Zanoguera completed her ‘And-1' play and then Yurena Diaz nailed a jump shot to hand Spain a double figure lead. It was an advantage that they quickly doubled as Russia disintegrated.
Spain were visibly quicker to every ball, slick in transition, mixing up their offensive game and giving Russia no easy looks. They impressively kept their foot on the gas and extended their advantage to a staggering twenty points at 23-3.
Russia then finally found some composure and even managed back to back scores but the respite was only temporary. Spain, a side that had previously looked reliant on wing and perimeter based offences through the likes of Vilaro continued to breeze to the hoop wih alarming ease.
Just when it looked like a blowout was on the cards, Zamaraeva sunk a huge three on the buzzer to limit some of the damage at the end of a catastrophic first quarter.
With seven turnovers in the first period and trailing 25-10, Russia had a mountain to climb and plenty of depth off the bench to come back although Spain, still relentlessly pressuring the ball, also had
|Ekaterina Fedorenkova added 7 points in the loss against Russia|
strength in reserve.
Russia were being out-fought and out played. Spanish hands were quicker in the passing lanes and midway through the quarter, Arkhipova Von Kalmanovich tried matching this by going small.
Unfortunately for the play-caller it was a strategy that made little difference. Zanoguera drained a three and the score was 32-13 and within minutes it got even worse - not that it seemed possible.
Leyre Carrascosa came off the bench to sink a triple from the corner and by the time Vilaro also drilled a three-pointer, Russia were left floored and trailing 41-16.
Spain pushed the lead out to 30 points during the third, continually getting to the hoop although Russia did rally in the closing minute with three-pointers by Kiseleva and Fedorenkova.
However the margin was still 25 points heading into the last period and Spain cantered to victory.