By Jeff TaylorSpain wobbled but turned on the style over the final nine minutes and beat France 63-53 to remain the only undefeated team at the EuroBasket Women in Italy.
Trailing 48-42 after a basket by Isabelle Yacoubou of France, Spain reeled off 13 consecutive points to take control for good.
Amaya Valdemoro, who marshalled the troops forward, led Spain with a game-high 17 points while key reserve Isabel Sanchez, who is making her debut in the national side at 30
years of age, had another excellent game with 15 points.
|Isabel Sanchez is a national team debutant but played like a veteran against France.|
“It’s been a really difficult game,” Valdemoro said. “It’s probably been the most intense game of the tournament so far.”
France had all the momentum after three quarters and their offensive rebounding was a big reason why.
Fifteen of their 32 boards came on the offensive glass and by the end of the contest, they had 20 offensive rebounds and 40 overall.
Spain finished with 34 rebounds, including 11 offensive.
“In the third quarter, when France were up six points, we had a big problem with (their) offensive rebounds,” Valdemoro said.
“But we never gave up. We showed the will that we’ve shown in recent years. I think all the players have contributed.
“Our centers had a big job to do today because France’s interior play is incredible.”
Indeed, French coach Jacques Commeres seemed to have an endless supply of low post players to throw at Spain, led by Sandrine Gruda and Emmeline Ndongue.
Sandra Dijon and Yacoubou also played big minutes, allowing the French to keep fresh players on the court.
The winning run began after Yacoubou’s basket with 9:24 remaining.
Anna Montanana connected from behind the arc and Valdemoro drove in for a lay-up to close the gap to 48-47.
Lucila Pascua then made a pair of free throws to give the Spanish the lead for good at 49-48.
The run continued, however.
Sanchez scored on a lay-up, and Montanana and Valdemoro added jump shots.
Edwige Lawson-Wade drilled a three-pointer to stop the rot and give France hope, but they would get no closer.
Valdemoro, playing with her usual passion, scored eight of Spain’s last 14 points.
She also had six rebounds, four assists and four steals (Spain had nine overall) and blocked one shot.
It was quite a turnaround because France had seemed to be in control.
They have one of the best defensive teams in the EuroBasket and for three quarters, they made things very difficult for Evaristo Perez’s team.
Spain were 16 of 33 (48.5%) inside the arc and just one of seven (14.3%) beyond it.
“We played very good defense early and for three quarters we were still in the game,” said France forward Sandra Le Drean.
“But they really played a good zone defense at the end and were able to get out on the fast break after we couldn’t hit our shots.
“We lost our confidence and it’s a real pity because we played so well at the beginning of the game.”
Sandrine Gruda, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, said: “We just stopped playing after three quarters. I don’t know why, because we really wanted to win this game.”