Spain will join Russia and Serbia & Montenegro in the semi-finals of the European Championship for U18 Women after a solid team performance gavem them a win over Ukraine.
In Olexandra Gorbunva, Ukraine possess the tournament’s most potent offensive weapon. Her 31-point haul was the highest in all games so far, but Spain knew that if they couldn’t shut her down, they would have to concentrate on her team-mates.
The strategy worked to perfection.
Gorbunova was a one-woman show. She had 19 of her team’s 36 point first half points. Julia Tokova scored 12 and the rest of the team just 5.
Nonetheless, it was enough to give Ukraine a 1-point lead and it was not until the 3rd period that Spain began to turn up their defensive intensity, and Gorbunova began to tire.
Spain held Ukraine to 11 third quarter points and took a 47:54 lead into the the fourth.
It was the first 3 minutes of the final period which decided the game.
Spain’s defense forced Ukraine into multiple turnovers which the Spanish converted into fast-break baskets. The highlight of the game was provided by Silvia Dominguez as her behind-the-back pass found Sara Gomez for a basket and foul which gave the Spanish a double-digit lead, 47:61.
From that point onwards the lead only increased. The speed of the Spanish guards was too much for Ukraine’s defense and they constantly managed to penetrate and find open jump-shooters.
Anna Cruz was Spain’s top scorer and finished the game with 19 points in just 24 minutes.
Gorbunova’s 31 points will cement her position as tournament MVP favourite, but for Ukraine a medal is now out of the question.