Spain is the 2004 European Champion for U18 Men after another amazing performance right in the money time. In tonight's Final against Turkey there was no doubt who deserved the win more. Sergio Rodriguez led Spain to a great conclusion to a great tournament.
For the second time ever, and the second time in the last 6 years, Spain is the U18 European Champion. From the 1998 team came players such as Pau Gasol (Memphis – NBA), Juan Carlos Navarro (Barcelona), Carlos Cabezas (Unicaja), Jose Calderon (Tau), Felipe Reyes (Estudiantes) and Antonio Bueno (Real Madrid).
The 2004 team has some superstars of its own. On top of the list is the MVP of this Championship and by far one of the most promising stars of European basketball in the years to come – Sergio Rodriguez. The Spanish point guard amazed the fans again and again with his superb passes, unstoppable penetrations, deadly three point shoots and killer instinct.
|Jose Antelo had 22 points and 13 rebounds|
The 2004 Final between Spain and Turkey was the most one-sided since 1986. An 18 point win, 89-71, has shown once again how big Spain is. Such domination isn’t a common sight in a junior championship. Spain won the quarter-final against Russia by 20 points, the Semi-Final against France by 17 and the Final against Turkey by 20 points.
The Turkish team kept its rivals in the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals to 56 and 55 points respectively, and in none of the games allowed its opponents to score more than 75 points. However, in the final Spain was too much of an offensive power even for the great Turkish team defense, and scored 89 points.
Turkey opened the tournament with an 11 point loss to Israel, but made a great comeback and took the silver medal – the first medal in history of the Turkish basketball in an U18 championship.
|17 points for Turkey in the Final: Engin Bayav|
The Spanish forward scored 7 points in a row, and added a huge block on the other side, and it was Suarez who completed a 10-0 run that put Spain on top for the first time in the game, 10-9, with 3:30 to play in the 1st.
Turkey took the lead back with points by Akol and Kaya but Sergio Rodriguez got a spot on the scoreboard with his first two, and a Rodriguez assist to Fontet in the last second of the quarter gave Spain an 18-17 lead.
Fontet and Rodriguez, first with a three-point play then with a beautiful fake, kept Spain on top in the first five minutes of the second quarter and after 5 minutes Spain had a 6 point lead, 29-23.
Rodriguez made it a 7 point game, 38-31, with another penetration, but a beautiful arc from Bayav from the 3 point line and 5 points in a row from Savas in the paint helped Turkey to reduce the gap to 4 right before the end of the first half. Nevertheless, Sergio Rodriguez still found the time to drill one more three-pointer with the buzzer and give his team a 7 point lead at the break: 43-36.
Rodriguez opened the 2nd half with a penetration that gave Spain a 9 point lead, but Turkey didn’t let go and stayed behind by 5-8 points for the next 6 minutes.
|Sergio Rodriguez receives the trophy from FIBA Europe President George Vassilakopoulos|
Turkey took a time out and after Spain increased the lead to 12, answered with a 0-6 run, 60-54.
Then it was time for Spain to call for a time out and come back with a 3 point shot from Garcia.
Demirel made two big points on a penetration and stole the ball from Rodriguez, which caused the Spanish magician to commit a flagrant foul, but Turkey got no points from this possession, and Garcia with a second hit in a row from the three-point line gave Spain another 10 point lead, 66-56, with only one quarter to play in the championship.
If anyone in Spain had any fear of a Turkish comeback, the first 2 minutes of the last quarter must surely have calmed him down. Spain opened with a 9-0 run, and took a 75-56 lead.
Turkey took another time out but the game was already over.
Sergio Rodriguez passed the last minutes of the game giving the spectators more and more magical memories of one of the most amazing individual performances in a U18 European Championship in many years.
With less than a minute to go Rodriguez left to the bench to say goodbye to the great Spanish fans and received a worthy standing ovation.