By Jeff TaylorAnother third-quarter master class by Spain propelled Evaristo Perez's team to a fifth consecutive victory at the EuroBasket Women.
Using their trade-mark defense and fast-breaks, the Spanish rolled to a 67-55 triumph.
Anna Montanana and Elisa Aguilar combined to score 30 of Spain's points while also coming up with five of
their 12 steals.
|Young Alba Torrens has played well for Spain, contributing 10 points to Saturday's effort.|
Co-captain Aguilar poured in 10 of her points in the third period when Spain forced Poland to commit five of their 19 turnovers.
"It's the defense," Montanana said. "It doesn't look that effective in the first half, but in the second the other team seems to get tired and that's when we have been able to make our move."
Spain's other co-captain, Amaya Valdemoro, had expected to make her first appearance of the EuroBasket Women on Saturday after finally recovering from her calf injury.
In the early morning hours, however, she awoke to a severe tooth ache. She went and had the tooth removed, but showed up at the Arena Riga before the game with her face swollen and unable to play.
The dentist took the tooth, but not her sense of humor.
She said before the game: "I went to the locker room and told my teammates, 'You have nothing to worry about because if anything is going to happen, it's going to happen to me.'"
Spain would love to have Valdemoro, the EuroBasket Women 2007 MVP, but they've done just fine without her so far.
In winning five games, they have won by an average of more than 16 points.
Perez is always looking for improvement but he didn't hesitate to praise his players when asked about their next Qualifying Round game against hosts Latvia.
"Right now, Latvia and Spain have shown that we are the best teams up to now but you have to prove that every day," he said.
Poland could not have put themselves in a better position to avenge their EuroBasket 2003 bronze-medal game defeat to Spain when opening up a 41-31 lead at the start of the second half.
Sparked by Aguilar and their defense, Spain went on a 27-6 run over the next 14 minutes.
In the blink of an eye, Poland's 10-point lead disappeared.
Aguilar nailed a three-pointer, Alba Torrens also connected from long range and Aguilar made a jumper to cut Poland's lead to 41-39.
Torrens, who is only 19, followed with a three-point play to put her team ahead at 42-41 and elicit shouts of "Vamos!" from the Spanish bench.
Poland's final advantage came with 5:16 to go in the quarter when Ewelyna Kobryn made one of two free throws.
Spain went in front for good after another three-pointer by Aguilar gave them a 45-43 advantage.
Poland battled, just as they had against Slovakia, but Spain's class told.
Poland coach Krzysztof Koziorowicz said: "In the first half, we set the 3-2 zone and it worked because we got easy shots and steals.
"Seeing as it had worked, we also started the same zone in the second half but we missed easy shots and weren't able to get steals," he said.
"They won their one-on-one contest with us. They played very aggressive and we lost concentration in the second half."
One factor that has everyone excited in Spain is the continued emergence of the young Spanish players.
One of them is Laura Nicholls and another is Anna Cruz.
Both are earning more minutes, game by game, because of their contributions on the defensive end of the floor, and their rebounding.
Nicholls had six rebounds and a steal while Cruz came up with one steal and grabbed three boards.
Poland's Daria Mieloszynska admitted that Spain are a nightmare to play against as the game goes on.
"Spain showed a lot of determination," she said."They played aggressive defense. This is the game that we have to learn from. I am pleased that I got to play against Spain."
Magdalena Leciejewska led Poland with 15 points, Kobryn had 14 and Agnieszka Bibrzycka scored 11.
Poland out-rebounded Spain 52-40 but forced just 13 turnovers.
Spain were 18 of 24 at the free-throw line compared to 10 of 15 for the Poles.