Monday, September 19, 2011

Spain defeat France for European title

Spain celebrates their gold medal during the EuroBasket2011 in Kaunas on September 18, 2011. Spain defeated France 98-85. Photograph by: JOE KLAMAR, AFP/Getty Images

KAUNAS, Lithuania, Sept 18, 2011 (AFP) - Spain became the first nation to defend their European title since Yugoslavia in 1997 as MVP Juan Carlos Navarro scored 26 points in Spain’s 98-85 victory over France in Sunday’s final.

Pau Gasol collected 17 points and 10 rebounds while Jose Calderon scored 17 points to lead Spain to their second European gold medal and 10th overall.

Rudy Fernandez chipped in 14 points and Marc Gasol had 11 points as the Spanish secured their sixth medal in the past seven European championships.

Both Spain and France had already made sure of their places at the 2012 Olympics by reaching the title match.

"I am proud of this championship because we won an extremely high-level championship. And we beat a great team, that makes our win better," said Spain coach Sergio Scariolo.

"Poland (in 2009) was the first title and then we thought back-to-back would be something really special. That was a great opportunity to enter the top level of European history."

France captured their second silver medal following second place in 1949 and it’s the French’s first medal since collecting bronze in 2005.

"Spain are the best team in Europe and they showed it," said French coach Vincent Collet.

"We kept coming back and they always found a solution to increase the lead. Finally they got the big lead and that was it. For us, it’s a bit of disappointment. But when you lose against a better team there is not a lot to say."

The French did not have enough firepower to help Tony Parker, who had 26 points and was also included on the all-tournament team along with Pau Gasol, Russia’s Andrei Kirilenko and Bo McCalebb of Macedonia.

Boris Diaw had 12 points while Joakim Noah chipped in 11 points and Nicolas Batum added 10 points for the French, who lost just two games in the tournament - both to Spain.

Spain turned the ball over just eight times while causing 15 turnovers plus they blocked 10 French shots and swiped 10 steals.

The first quarter was a back and forth affair with five lead changes and one tie before Spain took a 25-17 lead after back-to-back three-pointers by Navarro and Marc Gasol.

The second quarter featured a dominating defensive showing by Spain center Serge Ibaka with five blocks and four points in pushing the lead to 40-28.

The gap was 46-34 when Rudy Fernandez yanked Parker to the ground in the paint and the French star fell on his head.

Parker remained on the floor holding the right side of his head and Fernandez was charged for an unsportsmanlike foul.

Nando De Colo made both foul shots and then Batum nailed a three-pointer on the ensuing possession.

Batum then stole a ball from Navarro and dunked to compete a 7-0 run to close the gap to 46-41.

But Pau Gasol hit four points to make it 50-41 at the break. The Spain advantage was 11 points when Mickael Gelabale nailed a three-pointer and Noah made it 60-54.

But Navarro answered with a three-ball of his own to spark a 7-0 run and the lead was back to 13 points.

Spain led 75-62 after three quarters and France would not get closer than 12 points while the Spanish pushed the lead to 17 points.

In the bronze medal game, Andrei Kirilenko scored 18 points while Andrey Vorontsevich, Timofey Mozgov and Sergy Monya all hit for 10 points in Russia’s 72-68 victory over tournament surprises Macedonia.
© Copyright (c) AFP


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