Spain returned to supremacy at the Termosteps U16 European Championship Women, finishing their undefeated run in Katowice with a 71-59 victory over surprise outfit Italy in the gold medal match.
The Spaniards collected their fifth U16 title and fourth in five years by coming back from a 22-point second quarter deficit with Queralt Casas leading the way with 25 points, nine rebounds, two assists and six steals
Marina Delgado added 19 points, four assists and six steals for Jose Ignacio Hernandez's side, which adds the 2008 crown to their titles from 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
|Queralt Casas (Spain) scored 25 points|
"This is an enormous sensation for us. The game was very difficult and we did not think we could come back. It was just incredible all the great work our team did," said Hernandez, who coached Spain to U16 silver last summer.
Italy once again fell just short of their first ever U16 gold medal. The Italians, who last summer won the Division B championship, captured their fifth silver medal following 1978, 1980, 1985 and 1995.
Debora Carangelo scored 17 points in a losing effort while Marta Masoni added 12 points for Giovanni Lucchesi's team, which committed 27 turnovers in allowing Spain to come back from the big lead.
Spain started missing their first seven shots then after Amaia Segues put back an offensive rebounds Hernandez's side turned the ball over four times and Carangelo and Beatrice Carta converted break-away lay-ups for an 11-2 lead six minutes into the game. Yurena Diaz stopped the drought with a three-pointer but Masoni and Virginia Galbiati both would knock down long balls in the final minute of the first quarter for a 20-6 advantage.
Carangelo and Masoni started the second quarter with triples as Italy completed a 16-0 run spanning the periods for a 28-6 lead. Casas finally got Spain on the scoring board with a three-pointer and Italy still led 31-13 on Masoni's basket with five minutes left. But Delgado and Casas both drained long balls as the Spaniards forced a series of turnovers in chipping away at the Italian lead. And Elisabet Vivas's jumper at the buzzer had Spain within 36-34 at the break.
Spain came out of the changing room brimming with confidence and Casas's lay-up knotted the game straight away. Another lay-up by Delgado gave Hernandez's side their first lead of the game at 38-36. Mariona Ortiz would add a three-pointer before Italy finally hit a basket - Carangelo's lay-up for 41-38. The Italians were no match for the Spanish quickness, which turned lost balls into break-away lay-ups and three-point plays in racing ahead 60-46 after three quarters.
Carangelo gave Italy hope early in the fourth with a three-pointerr and lay-up, making it 60-51. Segues, however, made back-to-back baskets in the paint and the lead was back to 13 points. After Italy came to within 64-56, Delgado ended a Spanish drought with a three-pointer only to see Masoni answer with a triple of her own. But the Italians turned the ball over on their next five possessions and any hopes of a comeback were over.