By Jeff Taylor
Spain got a huge lift from the unlikely source of reserve center Cindy Lima and beat Belgium 72-53 to reach the semi-finals of the EuroBasket Women for a fourth consecutive time.
Leading 43-40 midway through the third quarter, Lima came off the bench and helped her team close the period on an 11-4 run, and they pressed home the advantage by outscoring the Belgians 9-2 at the start of the fourth en route to a comprehensive triumph.
Amaya Valdemoro led Spain with 19 points and Anna Montanana had 17, while the combative presence of Lima frustrated Belgian superstar Ann Wauters during the game-winning 20-6 surge that bridged the third and fourth quarters.
|Wauters was as effective as ever for Belgium but had to work for every point.|
“I think we had a very tough game against a very tough team with a real superstar,” Lima said, referring to Wauters who finished with 19 points (nine in the first half) and 10 rebounds.
“They are a nightmare with their center because they have so much power inside.”
Belgium, whose previous two defeats in the EuroBasket came in the qualifying round to Latvia and the Czech Republic by a combined five points, took a 29-25 lead with 4:33 remaining in the first half on a Kathy Wambe jump shot.
But Elisa Aguilar replied with one of her three three-pointers and Montanana followed with a jump shot.
Spain went to the changing rooms leading 32-31 at half-time, and after Wauters levelled the scores at 32-32 by splitting a pair of free throws to start the third period, Valdemoro buried a shot from the arc.
Laia Palau then drove in for a lay-up to make it 37-32.
Belgium twice closed the gap to one, once after two Wauters free throws and another time on a Wambe jumper, but they trailed for the remainder of the game.
“It was a very hard game,” said Spain coach Evaristo Perez.
“Belgium was really strong and the coach (Laurent Buffard) came up with a good strategy against us early.
“But we found the right rhythm and we started working harder on defense. And the big rhythm and the big defense led us to win the game.
“This was probably the best game we played in the tournament.”
Lima finished with four points, five rebounds and a steal, but her biggest contribution was
making life very difficult on Wauters, something that was especially timely with starting Spain center Lucila Pascua having twisted an ankle in the first quarter.
|Valdemoro appears to will Spain to victory at times.|
“Spain played a great game,” Wauters said. “They had Amaya, Aguilar (13pts), and Montanana.
“They had three scorers and I don't think our defense was that good. They didn't let us play our game.
“On offense, the ball didn't go around that well. They played strong defense but we should be smarter than that and find the open man.
“But we didn't do a good job with that. We had too many turnovers.”
Valdemoro was the biggest cause of Belgium’s 23 turnovers as she came up with five steals.
Pascua and Aguilar each had three, while Palau, Nuria Martinez and Montanana had two apiece.
“I talked to Ann yesterday and said, ‘One of us is going to lose,’ and that is sad, but it’s also sport.”
Spain now face red-hot Belarus, who defeated the Czech Republic in their quarter-final.
The Spanish beat Belarus 76-62 in the opening game of the tournament for both sides.