From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Patras
Spain claimed a remarkable 76-64 victory over Serbia & Montenegro on Friday in the last quarter-final of the European Championships to set up a rematch with Group B opponents Russia.
Vicente Rodriguez´s troops came into the game unbeaten but they trailed until late in the third quarter when inspiration from the most unlikely source helped them move past the Serbo-Montenegrins.
Marina Ferragut, a centre, stepped behind the three-point arc and made the shot right before the buzzer to give her side a 53-51 advantage.
|Laia Palau (ESP) looks for an opening|
Miodrag Veskovic and company, who had stifled the amazing Amaya Valdemoro and her team-mates for most of the game with an aggressive zone, would never lead again.
Valdemoro, who shot poorly but finished with a team-high 19 points, 13 rebounds and three steals, sank a baseline jumper with 8:10 left but Ivana Matovic scored her second straight basket almost immediately after for a 55-55 tie. Enter Ferragut, who stands 1.90 metres, once again.
With 6:25 left she scored her second three-pointer and after Lara Mandic closed the gap to 60-57 with 6:00 remaining, Ferragut struck again from long range - her third three-pointer in the last 4:40 of action.
That shot effectively meant lights out for Serbia & Montenegro as it gave the Spaniards a 63-57 lead and started an avalanche of points.
It also brought a cacophony of cheers from the Spanish section, the loudest of which was "Vamos" (Let´s go!).
The increased lead allowed Spain to relax, and entertain.
Rosi Sanchez, who poured in 14 points and also hit two of four three-pointers, gave Laia Palau a behind-the-back pass for a 65-57 advantage.
|Amaya Valderomoro takes the ball to the hoop|
Mandic scored again but there was no stopping the Spanish express.
After a Sanchez fastbreak and bucket, Palau made a three-pointer and then Valdemoro scored on two fastbreaks, one of them set up by her own steal.
Sanchez capped off the scoring in transition.
Valdemoro delivered a no-look pass to see off her defender and Sanchez banked in the shot.
Valdemoro, Spain´s star in the group games, was so relieved with the win that she wept as the team huddled immediately after the game.
It was not a game of beauty from her, but her determination helped fire her side to victory.
Afterwards, Betty Cebrian admitted Spain had had the fright of their lives.
"They started with a zone and psychologically that was tough," she told PA International.
"But when we started making some shots and finally making some threes, we calmed down and gained more confidence."
Spain now have to conquer a Russia team that they managed to beat in the group stage.
Gordana Grubin top scored for Serbia & Montenegro, who must beat France on Saturday to earn the right to play in the 5th/6th place game, with 16 points.