|26 July 2008|
Spain needed a near flawless fourth-quarter display to shake off Poland 77-62 and book their place for Sunday's 5th-6th place game in the U18 European Championship for Women.
Trailing 48-44 to start the final quarter, last year's runners up used some of their effective pressure defense and dead-eye shooting by the pair of Cristina Ouvina and Alba Garcia as they went on a 25-3 run that put them comfortably ahead 69-51.
That impressive spurt ended Poland's hopes of joining Serbia in a game where a place for the 2009 U19 World Championship for Women is up for grabs. Instead, there will be a second re-match of last year's final. Spain won the first one 76-64 on Tuesday when the two teams met in Group F of the Qualifying Round.
And head coach Carlos Colinas hopes he can make it a clean sweep of Serbia at this tournament.
"We're looking forward to playing them again and we'll do our best to beat them again," he said.
In order to do so though, his team must get off to a better start.
"We had a very slow start and overall played quite badly for the first three quarters. They were dictating the pace of the game and we almost looked afraid."
That all changed in the final period when a few easy baskets got their confidence going.
"We improved our defense and scored some easy lay ups off of their turnovers. It seemed to change our approach and we gained a lot of confidence all of a sudden," Colinas added.
Garcia led the way with 15 points off the bench while Cristina Pedrals had 14 and four assists. Ouvina finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Spain score the game's first seven points but Poland answer right back with a 16-2 run to lead 16-9.
The 2007 silver medallists recovered to trail by two, 18-16, after the first quarter. They had to play catch-up in the second quarter though as Paulina Antczak and Oliva Tomialowicz - who combined for 21 first-half points - kept the Poles in the ascendency.
Roman Skrzecz's girls led by as many as seven, 35-28, following a coast-to-coast lay up by Antczak but it was a four-point game, 35-31, at the break following Garcia's three-pointer late in the second period.
The game turned gritty and physical in third quarter much to Poland's advantage as they stayed in front. Spain trailed 41-36 midway through the period but scored five unanswered points in a 30-second span to tie the game. But Poland regained control and were up by four, 48-44, heading into the final frame.
Colinas's girls regained the lead, 50-48, on Cristina Ouvina's three-pointer early in the fourth quarter. Poland tied the game on a pair of free-throws, but the Spaniards, with newfound confidence, kept hitting from long-range, Garcia connecting on back-to-back bombs.
Spain also did a good job of tightening their defense and forced the Poles into a flurry of turnovers which the Spaniards easily converted in fast-break lay ups for a 67-50 lead with 4:24 left and Poland couldn't muster a comeback.
Tomialowicz had 14 points and Antczak added 12.