By Jeff Taylor
The fourth time proved to be the charm for Spain as they ended a three-game losing streak in EuroBasket Women semi-finals by beating Belarus 70-54 on Saturday night in Italy.
Anna Montanana scored 14 points and Amaya Valdemoro 12, while Spanish coach Evaristo Perez got 29 points from his bench in a convincing win.
Spain now face Russia, who beat them in the qualifying round, in the gold medal game.
“This is an historic achievement for us, to have four consecutive medals at the EuroBasket and on this occasion, we have a silver medal assured,” said Spain Basketball Federation president Jose Luis Saez.
|Isabel Sanchez was one of the players who came off the Spanish bench to contribute with nine points.|
Spain, who won gold in 1993, captured bronze at the last three EuroBaskets.
“I know the effort that the players have given in order to overcome the height disadvantage against other teams, but they show a lot of heart and a lot of grit and they deserve to be in the final game,” Saez said.
Spain’s victory has provided a first in that the same two countries will play in the finals of the men’s and women’s EuroBaskets in the same year.
Russia’s men upset Spain in the gold medal game at the EuroBasket in Madrid last month.
“Last time we were favourites,” Saez said, “but this time we know Russia have a great team, but we will not give anything without a fight.”
Belarus jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game, but Spain, behind Montanana’s nine points, battled back to lead 18-15 at the end of the first quarter and they remained in front the rest of the way.
They did close the gap to one when Tatyana Troina drilled a three-pointer with 1:43 remaining in the first half to make it 31-30 in favour of Spain.
Lucila Pascua scored the last two points before the intermission for a 33-30 lead.
Pascua then buried a short jumper at the start of the second half to give her team the momentum.
Elisa Aguilar connected from behind the arc and Montanana added a pair of free throws to make it 40-30.
The lead ballooned to 50-35 when Valdemoro nailed a three-pointer but Belarus showed great poise and went on an 8-0 run to stay in touch.
Katsiaryna Snytsina hit an off-balance three-pointer, shot from a couple of yards behind the arc, before Yelena Leuchanka scored five straight points – her first of the game - on a three-point play and two more at the free throw line.
They got even closer at 52-47 the start of the fourth on a Svetlana Volnaya jumper.
That’s when Spain’s bench took over.
A Marta Zurro jumper sparked a decisive 12-0 run in which super reserve Isabel Sanchez scored seven of her nine points.
||Our bench players were terrific. That is why we won this game.
|Spain's Amaya Valdemoro|
This time, Belarus lost touch.
“That is what is so impressive about this win,” said Valdemoro.
“Our bench players were terrific. That is why we won this game.”
“Someone had to stop us,” said Belarus guard Natalie Marchanka.
Belarus were careless with the ball on Saturday, turning it over 25 times.
“That showed the lack of experience,” Volnaya said. “Maybe we were a little bit more nervous than the Spanish team.”
After Belarus cut the deficit to five, Volnaya admitted Spain’s intensity went up.
“Their defense played really well,” she said. “That's how they took off. They played solid defensively and scored off our turnovers.”