Spain will have a chance to defend their title after coming back from a 12-point half time deficit to beat Turkey 81-75 in Rethimnon tonight and earn their place in the final.
The defending champions trailed 50-38 at the break, but turned things around in the second half thanks to their full-court press defense to beat Mustafa Derin’s men.
Albert Jodar, who was a key piece of the team that won the tournament last year, put Spain ahead 74-73 on a three-pointer with under four minutes left in the game and Josep Franch put the game out of reach with some clutch play down the stretch.
Turkey, who had to play without inspirational playmaker Genco Dilik for much of the second half due to injury, led 63-58 going into the final period.
But, by then, the momentum had already swung in Spain’s favour as Josi Ramon Cuspineda’s men came out much more fired up after the break and went on to outscore Turkey 43-25 over the final two quarters.
‘I told my players at the half that Turkey had already scored 50 points in the first half and on average over the course of the tournament we’ve only allowed 62 [points] a game, so we had to stop them and we started to play full court press in the third quarter to put pressure on their guards,’ said Spain’s head coach afterwards.
‘We knew we couldn’t guard them one on one in half court. That didn’t work in the first half. So we changed and it made us better on offense too because we were able to run like they did and score easy points.’
Spain had jumped to a 5-0 lead before Turkey used a 7-0 run to take the lead on Firat Toz’s lay up.
The two teams then traded the lead and a pair of free-throws by Miguel Ortega edged Spain ahead, 22-21, at the end of the first quarter.
But Spain then went through a dry spell offensively early in the second quarter while Turkey, who won this competition in 2005, found its groove and used a 7-0 run – capped by a Can M Mutaf lay up – to take a 30-25 lead with 6:25 left in the second quarter.
Franch, who was Spain’s high scorer with 22 points, then started a three-point shooting contest with Turkey.
The 185cm guard made two shots from beyond the arc midway through the second period, but Yoksel Burak and Mutaf hit one each from the corner and the latter hit another from the wing to help his team go up 39-31.
Sertac Sanli made a lay up just before the end of the second quarter to give Mustafa Derin’s side a 50-38 lead at the half.
But the defending champions showed why they got this far in the tournament as they came out strong after the break and scored the first five points of the third quarter – all through Miguel Ortega to get within seven, 50-43.
They came within 58-56 on Jodar’s lay up with 2:05 left in third period, but Firat Toz made a three pointer and a lay up for a 63-56 lead heading into the final frame.
However, Turkey lost its shooting touch in the fourth quarter, failing to hit a field goal in the last four minutes of the game.
Spain gradually reduced the deficit until Jodar put them ahead for good.
‘Alberto is the leader of this team. We all look up to him. He isn’t very spectacular or flashy but he does a lot of damage,’ Franch said.
Jodar finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Mutaf, who was plaged by foul trouble, finished with 20 points while Enes Kanter had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Turkey who will now play for the bronze medal in tomorrow’s third place game.