Spain Capture Fifth

27.07.2008

Spain held off a furious third quarter comeback by Serbia to beat them 69-64 and thereby finish fifth at the U18 European Championship for Women.


In the tournament's second re-match of last year's final - Spain beat Serbia 76-64 on Tuesday in the Qualifying Round - the Spaniards once again toppled the 2007 champions to clinch the fifth and final berth for next year's U19 World Championship for Women.

"This is a great result for Spain, maybe more important and implausible than most people believe," said head coach Carlos Colinas afterwards. "Our team is very limited physically - we are not that tall or powerful. But we make up for that with desire and passion."

"We know that a game against Serbia is never over until the clock on the scoreboard reads zero. This was a perfect example of it."

Leonor Rodriguez had 18 points and Isabel Perez added 14 for Spain while Jovana Popovic, Sara Krnjic and Tina Jovonovic each had 13 to pace Serbia.

Spain saw their 14-point half-time lead disappear completely as the two teams started the final quarter tied at 53.

Down 39-25 at the break, Zoran Kovacic's girls proceeded to outscore their counterparts 28-14 in the third period, tying the game on Krnjic's basket with only seconds left.

Spain answered most of Russia's baskets in the early stages of the second half and still held a sizable nine-point lead, 49-40, on Isabel Perez's jumper with 3:25 to go in the third period. But they collapsed at both ends of the floor to allow the Serbians back in the game.

And the fourth quarter saw both teams struggle. Spain missed free-throws that could have sealed the game while also rushing their decisions on their fast-break opportunities. Meanwhile, Serbia turned the ball over at an unusually high rate and their shooting touch deserted them.

Despite their problems, the Spaniards stayed on top thanks to Vega Gimeno, who hit a three-pointer and followed it with a breakaway lay-up for a 64-57 lead with six minutes left.

Last year's runners-up looked to be closing in on a relatively easy win when Marta Tudanca hit from long range for a 67-59 score with 2.30 left in the game. However, Serbia once again fought back and were within three, 67-64, on Nevena Jovanovic's three-pointer with 49 seconds to go.

Rodriguez made one free-throw with 15 seconds left and it proved enough to hold on for the victory.

In the first half, Spain got off to a quick start thanks to the play of guards Cristina Ouvina and Rodriguez. They were up 17-7 on the latter's lay-up midway through the first quarter.

Serbia came within six, 22-16, on Tina Jovanovic's lay up early in the second period but Spain buckled down on defense and, as it has done throughout the tournament, it led to good transition game resulting in lay ups or trips to the free-throw line that helped them a long way towards their 39-25 lead at the break.


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