Spain Champions

30.07.2006

It took them almost 10 days, but Spain finally found top gear at the final of Umcor U18 European Championship Women on Sunday.

Spain stuttered through preliminary round play and were less than their best in the quarter-final round and semi finals.

But none of that mattered in Sunday's final, when Spain beat the previously undefeated Serbia & Montenegro 78-74 to win the gold medal.

Tamara Abalde (Spain)
Tamara Abalde
This Spanish team knows a thing or two about winning. Champions at the U16 level in 2004 and 2005, Spain put on their best display by far in the final against Serbia & Montenegro.

Tamara Abalde was outstanding for the Spanish and tallied a game high 23 points, while Anna Carbo added 17. Laura Herrera and Alba Torrens weighed in with 14 and 12 respectively

Spain have had an atrocious tournament from the free throw line and were averaging just 56% going into Sunday's final. Crucially, they shot 16/18 against Serbia & Montenegro.

Serbia & Montenegro had led from the front in each of their seven wins before Sunday's final. However, Spain refused to let their opponents dictate the game.

In an intriguing opening 30 minutes Spain were almost always in front, but never by more than 5 or 6 points.

Maja Miljkovic and Sonja Petrovic were inspirational for Serbia & Montenegro in the first half. Miljkovic scored 14 points, while tournament MVP Petrovic had 16.

Petrovic was actually forced to sit out the first five minutes of the third quarter with foul trouble, but it didn't stop Serbia & Montenegro from establishing a seven-point lead, 41-48.

But Spain slowly came back and local girl Herrera was instrumental. She picked up 3 fouls in the first half, but returned in the third to give her side seven points as Spain took a 64-59 lead at the 30-minute mark.

Spain led from the front in the final period, and while Serbia & Montenegro rarely trailed, the effort of trying to come back proved too great.

Serbia & Montenegro had four chances to take the lead in the final quarter, but were each time unable to go in front, including two blown free throws from Miljkovic.

Sonja Petrovic (Serbia & Montenegro)
Sonja Petrovic had a frustrating second half

With time winding down, it was the Spanish who took the initiative.

Torrens, on the bench with four fouls, returned to the game and made a driving lay-up to give Spain a 2-point lead and then Carbo grabbed an offensive rebound and putback to put her side in front, 76-72.

Miljkovic converted a tough lay-up to cut the score, but Abdale nailed her final shot of the game to give Spain a 78-74 lead with 58 seconds to go.

After a missed three by Snezana Aleksic, Laura Herrera commited an offensive foul to give Serbia & Montenegro an outside chance, but Ana Dabovic was called for hooking on a drive to the basket, giving possession back to Spain and the opportunity to run out the clock.

Spain held Petrovic scoreless in the second half, while center Milovanovic scored just one point. Miljkovic finished with 23 points, but was just 4/11 from the free throw line.


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