by Paul Nilsen
"A basketball university" is how Finland coach Harri Jokela described life in Division A after he watched his side get brutally picked off 83-37 by a rampant and slick Spanish team.
The reigning champions outclassed Finland completely and it left Jokela reflecting on a harsh lesson for his team but thankful for their opening day success against Belarus which has resulted in them reaching the Qualifying round.
"Division A basketball is so important for us and there is no doubt that it is proving to be a basketball university."
"We made far too many mistakes and didn't protect the ball, missed far too many lay-ups and didn't make easy passes."
"Life in at this level is difficult for my players who were used to winning a lot of games in Division B and mentally we have to meet this new challenge."
"However the win against Belarus means we can continue to do this as it is hard to put into words just how important our Division A status is for Finland basketball."
Despite their drubbing by Belgium, Finland didn't look short of confidence in a fine first part of the game when they matched up well with the Spanish, catching them cold to move into a surprise 14-9 lead. However their joy was short-lived as Spain eased through the gears and produced an 11-0 run to ensure they led 20-14 after the first quarter with Inmaculada Zanoguera claiming 10 points including a pair of triples.
Within three minutes, Spain had increased their authority by scoring the first 10 points of the second period and again it was outside shooting that did the damage - Andrea Vilaro effortlessly draining back to back three-pointers.
Finland finally troubled the scorers at the midway point when they opened their second quarter account via two quick scores by Annika Holopainen. Just when it looked like they might have stemmed the tide, Vilaro showed she definitely had the hot hands by sinking further back to back triples to take Spain out to a 38-20 lead.
After some deadly perimeter shooting by Vilaro, Spain then started to compound the misery of their opponents by going inside to showcase the all round game that again has them favourites to find gold.
It was a devastating quarter and Finland ended up on the wrong end of a 27-5 drubbing inside ten minutes and heading to the locker rooms trying to figure out how to limit the damage in the second half.
It was always going to be a tough task against a Spanish side only too happy to demonstrate their ruthless streak and by the end of the third period had taken their lead out to 70-34.
Finland simply had no answers to the depth and level of talent and while his team did manage to win that pivotal opener, Coach Jokela was upset with the way his team applied themselves.
"I can accept that Spain have better players and have a higher talent level. They can be quicker and stronger and that causes problems as you would expect from a team looking for the gold medal."
"However that is no excuse for my team to stop putting the important fundamentals into practice and it was difficult to understand."
"We have to improve in the next part of the tournament and use this loss and the one against Belgium as a lesson to make sure we at the very least, always do the easy things."