by Paul Nilsen
Reigning champions Spain posted the biggest win of the tournament as they pulverised Czech Republic 87-33 to move into the semi-finals and set up a mouth watering clash with either Italy or Russia.
Outclassed and perhaps a little out of their depth after their surprise run to the last eight of the competition, Czech Republic capitulated in the face of a Spanish onslaught and one that left Coach Hernandez understandably delighted.
"We made a lot of mistakes in the first quarter because we were very nervous in this game as it was the most important for us as we wanted to make the top four or five in the tournament."
"When the players settled a little it was much better for us in the second quarter. We played better defence and got to the basket and it made a big difference."
"It was important that we did not lose our intensity at the end but of course I have so many players who have come to play here that when we make changes to the team, our intensity does not drop."
The play-caller is now eagerly waiting to see who his tam will come up against in the last four but was at pains to explain that this was a victory with one main objective in mind.
"We have qualified for the World Championships next year and that is the most important thing for us because it is going to be a really difficult finish to the tournament."
"Both Italy and Russia are very good teams as you would expect and it does not matter too much which team we have to play."
It was certainly an untidy beginning for the Spanish team with a couple of early turnovers and poor looking jump shots duly punished by the Czechs as they scored the first two baskets of the game.
With little dropping inside, Andrea Vilaro stepped back on the wing to hit a trademark triple and finally Spain were on the scoreboard but still it was the Czech team looking more convincing.
Spain managed one further lay-up and then neither team scored for the next three or four minutes until a nice left handed drive by number Beata Adamcova. This put the Czech team 8-5 in front but Carla Rodriguez finished a nice move after starting on the block and then a jumper off the glass by Yurena Diaz finally gave Spain a lead.
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It lasted only seconds as Adamcova gave the Czech team the lead back only for another unforced turnover to gift Marles Balart an easy bucket. Thankfully for the Czech Republic, Dominika Pohunkova rounded off the scoring with a deep three to put her team in front 14-13.
After an error ridden quarter, both teams looking for an uplift in quality but it was a poor start to the second quarter for Czech Republic and consequently Coach Richard Fousek decided to stop the rot early by calling a time-out less than one minute into the period.
He had watched his team concede five quick fire points but things were to get even worse as Spain scored the next 6 including another Vilaro triple to complete an 11-0 run and move 25-14 in front.
The Spanish were getting far too many easy backdoor looks and as they slashed relentlessly to the hoop and enjoyed some pick and pop to the shooters, the Czech team were on the ropes.
Spain kept their foot on the gas and the peddle to the floor as they drove home their advantage. They went into an aggressive press and Czech Republic crumbled as Elena De Alfredo made a great ‘And-1' play to get the Spanish team off the bench.
The Spanish just kept getting to the hoop almost at will, still racking up easy lay-ups and those backdoor cuts which exposed the lack of any Czech interior presence.
As Silvia Marcelo completed a blistering 27-7 period by scoring in this exact fashion, Czech Republic already looked like a well beaten team at 40-21.
That notion was very much rubber stamped when Spain increased their lead to 50-23 inside four minutes in the second half and you were left what Coach Fousek could possibly say during a time-out for his team.
The answer was very little. Spain just steam-rollered the Czech team for the remainder of the game in rather brutal fashion. They passed a few landmarks along the way and for a quarter final it was a little painful to watch at times.
Spain crashed firstly through the forty point barrier, then the fifty point margin before eventually peaking at 55 ahead.
Meanwhile despite this quarter-final turning into something of a nightmare for the Czech team, you couldn't help but admire the fact that after two opening defeats in the Group stages, Coach Fousek and his players had proudly made it this far.
The dream may seem to be over but another fairytale lives on as they battle it out with the four quarter-final losers for that last and pivotal fifth spot ad what would be an unlikely and shock place in the World Championships next year.