ebw13 spain 568Spain lift the EuroBasket Women title in Orchies, defeating France 70-69 in a magnificent final.

It was a climax which lived up to its billing, between the tournament’s two unbeaten teams. And it was centre Sancho Lyttle – the game, and the tournament’s, Most Valuable Player – who proved the Spaniards’ heroine with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and two late  scores which proved decisive.

“When we stepped off the plane, they said our aim was to finish in the top five and qualify for the worlds,” Lyttle said.

“I thought: ‘why am I coming all this way for fifth?’ I wanted the gold. And that’s what I got.”

Early French turnovers were punished as the Spanish put the capacity crowd on edge. A three-pointer from Alba Torrens, eventually contributing a team-best 21 points, put the guests up 26-14 with eight minutes left in the second period with their zone defence holding the Olympic silver medallists at bay.

Lyttle was huge (FIBAE)

Lyttle was huge (FIBAE)

However France’s supreme playmaker Celine Dumerc sparked a retort. Two threes in quick succession ignited a 13-0 run that was to set up a night of never-ending drama.

Six straight points put Spain in front again before Endene Miyem cut the gap to 36-35 at half-time. The band kept playing. Tricolores waved. The din incessant.

France re-took the lead, after a three by Edwige Lawson-Wade and a basket by Gruda, going 49-46 in front midway through the third.

Spain resisted once more. It took a layup from Emmeline Ndongue to send Les Braqueuses into a 55-53 advantage as the fourth period began.

An epic conclusion was in prospect. NBA player Boris Diaw sat motionless and transfixed. Who could blame him?

Silvia Dominguez, by contrast, was a ball of energy. She willed the Spaniards to eight straight points.  61-55 clear. Another rally. Another subtle momentum shift? Not one that would last.

This was destined to be a tustle. And with every score from Les Bleues, an eruption of sound engulfed the arena. 18 turnovers may have been a sign of their nerves. However in the end, they were simply bested by the small margins which separate triumph from hope.

It was Lyttle who came up biggest with a late three-point play. In a battle of wills, hers was the greatest.

Dumerc hit one more three but it was Caribbean-born centre who had the last word with a baseline jumper.

And with Lawson-Wade, in her final game, unable to get off a clean attempt to send the contest into overtime, the last second score in the paint from Gruda – taking her to 25 points – left her side agonisingly short.

¨What can I say?” Dumerc said. “Playing the final, against Spain, and lose it by one. We are going to have nightmares tonight.

“I hope, at least, it was a good game of basketball.”

One worthy of a finale.

Places decided

Earlier, third place was secured Turkey who pulled away in the third quarter to claim a 92-71 victory over Serbia, paced by 18 points from Quanitra Hollingsworth. It left the Serbs fourth, led by 23 from Jelena Milanovic.

On Saturday, Belarus took fifth place with a 64-50 defeat of Czech Republic, paced by 18 points from Yelena Leuchanka.

While Sweden completed their run with seventh, with a 13-0 run spurring them to a 77-60 win over Italy.

Lyttle heads Tournament Team

Lyttle headed the All-Tournament line-up, joined by Isabelle Yacoubou and Dumerc of France, Sweden’s Frida Eldebrink and Torrens of Spain.


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