Spain and Turkey renewed what is fast becoming an intense rivalry at the Umcor U18 European Championship Women in Tenerife on Friday.
The two sides most recently met in the semi-finals of the 2005 U16 European Championship Women, when Spain won 51-49 on their way to a second consecutive gold medal.
Fast forward one year and Spain are the favourites to win another gold with their immensely talented 1989 born generation. The fact that the tournament is held on home soil is only another factor in Spain's favour.
Despite the homecourt advantage, it took every ounce of determination Spain had to see off Turkey, 65-64.
|Aauri Bokesa |
Neither side was able to build a significant lead in the opening three quarters and it soon became clear that the game would go down to the wire.
Turkey struck first in the final quarter when Yasemin Dalgalar converted a lay-up which put her side in front, 51-56.
But Spain refused to panic and a 9-3 run over the next 5 minutes saw the scores tied at 60-60 with 3:35 to play.
Once again, Turkey took the initiative and two free throws and a jump shot by Dürdane Gümüsay saw them surge in front 60-64.
Spain needed a quick basket and it was Gaby Ocete who provided her team with a huge lift as her steal and fast break lay-up cut the lead to two points.
Following a miss by Gizem Yavuz, Spain then grabbed 3 offensive rebounds in one possession before Aauri Bokesa got a lay-up to fall to tie the game up at 64-64 with just over one minute remaining.
Turkey had two chances to regain the lead, but shots from Gümüsay and Sebnem Can went astray. It was Spanish guard Noelia Oliva who grabbed the rebound from Can's miss and she was immediately fouled by Gümüsay, sending her to the line.
Spain were a miserable 10/27 from the charity stripe on the night, but Oliva made the second of her two free throws to give Spain a 1-point lead.
Turkey were left with 7 seconds to try to pull out a heroic win, but Can's three-point effort fell short and Spain were left to celebrate.
Offensive rebounding proved to be the story of the game in the fourth period. 7 of Spain's 14 points in the final quarter came from second chance opportunities and they grabbed a total of 8 offensive boards in the fourth quarter.
Bokesa top scored for Spain with 10 points. She also grabbed 10 rebounds, 7 at the offensive end. Center Laura Nicholls was equally impressive on the boards and she finished with 14 to her name.
Yapar paced Turkey with 17 points.