Motivated Spain Win Russia Duel, Will Fight For Gold

18 July 2009

Spain won an intense battle with Russia by the score of 67-55 to advance to the Final of the U20 European Championship Women 2009 in Gdynia, Poland.

It was a game defined by two different styles.  Each team stayed true to what it does best, and when they each could impose their dynamic on the court, the result was reflected on the movement of the scoreboard.

Spain pressured full-court and would run at any opportunity while Russia looked inside to their two centers, Nadezda Girshaeva and Natalia Vieru. 

Grishaeva led her team with a game-high 21 points to go with eight boards and punished the Spanish all afternoon in the paint.

But a combination of Laura Nicholls (11 points, 8 boards), Tamara Abalde (12 points, 7 boards) and a slew of bench players were able to force Vieru into 1-for-11 shooting for just six points.

"They have two great centers in Vieru and Grishaeva and we all had to help on the inside to try and control them. They did their damage, but in the end we got the win," said Alba Torrens, a small-forward who took her turn trying to reign in Grishaeva.

Torrens was the engine behind the Spanish victory, scoring a team-high 17 points, dishing five assists and pulling in seven boards.

Although the game was not decided till the very last minutes, there was a key moment at the beginning of the second half that exemplified the contest.

After Torrens rammed home a lay-up over Elena Pavlova to give Spain a 19-point lead (45-26) early in the third, Russia went to work and reduced the deficit to 12, forcing Spain coach Jordi Fernandez to call for time.

His team responded, Cristina Ouvina (11 points) scored on a drive, Torrens nailed another three-pointer, and Nicholls put in back-to-back lay-ups to push the lead out to 21 (54-33).

For Torrens, who also plays with the senior team along with Nicholls and Abalde, playing Russia had added significance.

"The truth is that playing Russia we had extra motivation since they had beaten us the last two times we played in EuroBasket [2009 in Latvia] and last year's Olympic Games."

Spain will now fight France for the gold medal.


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