By David Hein
Spain nearly blew a 20-point lead before holding on to beat Italy 75-72 and capture the bronze medal at the U20 European Championship.
Pere Tomas scored 18 points while Pablo Aguilar had 14 points and Sergio De La Fuente added 13 points for Spain, who have still not won a U20 gold but captured their seventh overall medal and fourth bronze.
"It's great. We lost yesterday and that was a sad moment. But this is a European Championship and only three teams can stand on the podium," said Xavier Rabaseda, who chipped in eight points, five rebounds and four steals.
"This is a bronze medal and this is why we participate."
|Pablo Aguilar missed most of the tournament but had warmed up by the end with 14 points and six boards in the bronze medal game.|
Spain led by 20 points midway through the third quarter but saw Italy use the long ball to pull within two points and had a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer at the buzzer.
"This has been our problem throughout the tournament. We would get a lead and then stop playing defense," said Rabaseda.
Paolo Rotondo scored 12 points and Daniele Sandri had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Italy, who made 11 of 29 (38 percent) three-pointers.
Spain scored the first 10 points of the game and led 17-6 midway through the first quarter. But Italy fought to within 20-18 after one period.
Gustavo Aranzana's Iberians streaked to the first 12 points of the second quarter and a 23-5 run to build a 20-point lead - 43-23. And the advantage was 45-28 at intermission.
The Spaniards pushed the lead back to 20 points - 55-35 - midway through the third quarter. But the Italians used the long ball to get back into the contest with Rotondo, David Cournooh, Sandri, Riccardo Truccolo and Andrea Marusic all knocking down triples in a 19-7 surge to cut it to 62-54 after three periods.
The outside barrage continued in the fourth quarter with treys by Truccolo, Martinoni and Rotondo bringing Stefano Sacripanti's men to within 67-65 with less than six minutes left.
But Luis Parejo answered with a triple and the lead would grow back to 75-68 with less than three minutes remaining. Italy would cut the deficit to 75-72 and had a chance to send the game to overtime but Roberto Rullo's three-pointer at the buzzer was off target.