|Alba Torrens led the charge for Spain in the final, scoring 21 points|
By Paul Nilsen
Turning Point: It was a quite beautiful moment for Spanish fans and women's basketball lovers everywhere as Spain showed great composure in crunch time. Marta Xargay held the ball to run down the clock, gave it to Laia Palau who penetrated and dished it to Sancho Lyttle who made a baseline jump-shot to seal the deal at 70-67 with a handful of seconds remaining.
Stats Don't Lie: France build their entire game on careful control of the ball and not committing turnovers. Under intense defensive pressure from Spain, they cracked and gave up a nightmare total of 18 during the game.
Game Heroes: Their shooting percentages may not have been great but Sancho Lyttle and Alba Torrens brought the big plays and energy at both ends of the floor. They combined for 41 points, whilst Cindy Lima did a great job too with a fantastic cameo by doing the dirty work and pulling down nine rebounds.
Spain were crowned EuroBasket Women 2013 champions for the first time in two decades after they edged out hosts France in a breath-taking and dramatic 70-69 blockbuster in Orchies.
In another spectacular advert for women's basketball, the tension was almost unbearable as France tried to force overtime in the last seconds, but they could only get an inside score from the outstanding Sandrine Gruda who had 25 points.
In a compelling game of runs, it was Spain who drew first blood when Sancho Lyttle scored half of their points to go 14-8 ahead.
Then, at the end of the first quarter, their approach to the game was encapsulated beautifully when the all-action Torrens grabbed a steal to spark a fast-break, which culminated in Laia Palau gleefully hitting a three-pointer on the buzzer.
When Cindy Lima scored at the start of the second period, it completed an 8-0 burst from Spain and better followed when Torrens converted from deep to put her team 24-14 in front.
But, led by the classy Gruda, France came roaring back, shutting down the Spanish offence for a full five minutes, to post a fantastic 13-0 un which gave them the lead.
All over the floor, there were bruising battles simmering, including Palau and Celine Dumerc in the backcourt, whilst Gruda was relishing going up against Lyttle.
As the action unfolded, it became more spectacular, the partisan crowd feasting on the delight of Gruda blocking Lyttle, only for Torrens to drop another triple seconds later.
Torrens was proving unstoppable and put Spain 36-29 ahead, but again Les Bleues responded with six straight points to make it a one-point game at the break.
It was brewing into an epic and at one point, almost turned into the Gruda and Torrens show as both teams struggled to make a decisive break in the third quarter. When Silvia Dominguez and Marta Xargay dropped successive triples at the start of the final period, Spain moved 61-55 in font.
As Lima fouled out and Lyttle picked up a fourth foul, Spain wobbled and the crowd hoped for a touch of déjà vu as Dumerc got France to within a point at 68-67 from three-point range.
Only this time, there was to be no heroics, as Spain executed their final offensive opportunity to superb effect prior to France bungling their chance to force overtime.
Spain Player Sancho Lyttle:
"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. This final was a tough game, both teams fought a lot and at the end we won only by one."
Spain Head Coach Lucas Mondelo:
"We are the European Champions, 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."
France Player Celine Dumerc:
"What can I say? Playing the final, against Spain, and losing it by one... We are going to have nightmares tonight. I hope, at least, it was a good game of basketball."
France Head Coach Pierre Vincent:
"Congratulations to Spain, they played at a very high level. 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."