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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Spain Ousts France, 74-71, in Overtime; Makes History with First World Semis Appearance

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Photo Caption: Spain’s Amaya Valdemoro (Red # 13) goes up for two of her game-high 28 points as Emmeline Ndongue (White # 14) and Endene Miyem (White # 5) defend in Friday’s 74-71 overtime upset over France. The win sends Spain’s Women’s National Team to the semifinals for the first time in the history of the Women’s World Basketball Championships.

Photo Credit: Tara Polen

By Lee Michaelson

Rounding out a day of upsets in the Women’s World Basketball Championships quarterfinals (save for Team USA’s 106-44 win over Korea), Spain forced the European champion, France, into overtime before stealing a 74-71 win. It will be the first-ever appearance for Spain, which has five European championship medals to its credit, in the semifinals of the World Championships.

In what was by far the most evenly matched pairing of the day, both teams struggled for the first few minutes, before Spain headed out to an early, 11-6, lead behind seven points from Amaya Valdemoro, who had the hot hand both from the perimeter and inside the paint.

But France quickly battled back, launching a 10-0 run over a four-minute span in the latter half of the first quarter. France got the go-ahead points on a short jumper by Marielle Amant with three-and-a-half minutes left in the period.  Despite another three-pointer by Valdemoro on an assist by Elisa Aguilar, France finished the opening period on top, 16-14.

Spain righted the ship with a 7-0 run that spanned the end of first quarter and the beginning of the second, to retake the lead at 18-16. But France answered back with a trey by Jennifer Digbeu off an assist from feisty French point guard Celine Dumerc to launch an 8-0 run that put the French lead at 24-18.

Anna Montanana stopped the bleeding with a lay-up with four minutes left in the half, but Spain would get only two more points, both from the free-throw line, before the break. The two teams headed to the locker room with France up by four, 26-22.

France stretched its lead to 11 points, 37-26, as the Spaniards, Valdemoro included, seemed to be missing one chippie after another. But Spain refused to go away.  Sancho Lyttle (Atlanta Dream) knocked down an alley-oop on a pass from Laia Palau to shave the lead to seven.

France began to pull away in the latter half of the third quarter, extending the lead to 13 points on a fast-break jumper by Amant. After Spain once again carved it to single digits with two from the charity stripe by Lyttle and a three-ball from Montanana (assist by Valdemoro), France once again made it 12, as Florence Lepron dropped in a lay-up and knocked down two from the line.

Photo Caption: France’s Florence Lepron (White # 6) heads to the hoop as Spain’s Cindy Lima (Red # 7) and Anna Montanana (Red # 12) attempt to defend.
Photo Credit: Tara Polen

The final 36 seconds of the period looked a lot like a three-point contest. Valdemoro picked Dumerc’s pocket and drained another trey, but Dumerc quickly answered in kind. Unwilling to let the French have the final word, Valdemoro sank yet another buzzer-beating three-ball, to finish the quarter with France up, 52-43.

Heading into the final three minutes of regulation, France still hung on to that nine-point lead, 62-53. The handwriting appeared to be written on the wall, but many of those present misread it.

Montanana took the dish from Palau and drained a three-pointer with 2:29 left on the clock.  The French were still up by eight, but over the next few minutes, seemed to fall apart at the seams, with one turnover and miss after another.

Lepron fouled Palau, putting her at the line, where she cut the deficit to four. Valdemoro answered a Dumerc lay-up with another triple off a Montanana feed, cutting the difference to three with 23 seconds on the clock.

Forced to foul to stop the clock, Spain’s Nuria Martinez put Dumerc on the line, where she missed both penalty shots. France got the ball back, but Jennifer Digbeu turned it over out of bounds, then compounded her error by fouling Valdemoro, who promptly sank both. One-point ballgame with 10 seconds remaining in regulation.

With time running out, Valdemoro fouled Endene Miyem, who made one and missed one. Spain’s Alba Torrens grabbed the board and fired it to Valdemoro, who beat the clock, dropping in a fast-break lay-up with just one second left to play to send the game to extra minutes, 65-65.

Valdemoro finished with a game-high 28 points for Spain, to say nothing of her eight rebounds. But Torrens’ rebound to end regulation, and the four points she put up early in overtime are in many ways the story of the game.

France cut the Spanish lead to two on a lay-up by Dumerc, and Emmeline Ndongue knotted the score from the charity stripe at 69 apiece, then put her team on top, 71-69, with two more at the foul line, and just a minute-and-a-half left to play.

Valdemoro was out of gas, missing every shot she put up in the extra minutes. But her teammates stepped up to finish the job she had so capably started. Cindy Lima grabbed the offensive board off Valdemoro’s missed lay-up and was fouled for her troubles, making one of the pair at the line.

France still led by one, but Miyem missed an open three-point attempt and Torrens once again grabbed the board. With 38 seconds left in overtime, Palau dished the ball to Lima, and this time her aim was good. Now it was Spain leading by one, 72-71.

Les Bleues will have four years to consider what happened next. As the clock wound down to the final 12 seconds and its hopes of a medal on the line, France turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation.

Now forced to foul, Lepron put Montanana on the line, where she sealed the win with two makes. French Coach Pierre Vincent took timeout, but Digbeu’s Hail Mary was off at the buzzer, sending Spain to its first-ever World Championship semifinal and France to the consolation rounds.

France “deserved to win,” Spanish Coach Jose Hernandez said afterward through a translator, “but basketball does not always [reward] the one who deserves to win.”

Valdemoro attributed the turnaround to Spain rediscovering its “fire” and returning to its own fast-paced style of play after three quarters of being forced out of its game by the French defense.

Joining Valdemoro in double figures were Montanana (14 points, two boards, two assists, and a steal, but three turnovers) and Lyttle (11 points, a game-high nine rebounds, and three steals). But the good news-bad news for Spain is that Lyttle injured her back late in the third period and was unable to return to the court in the crucial final quarter and overtime periods.

“She is very important to us,” said Valdemoro, “but we proved that if we fight, we can do it without her.” Spain may have to do just that, as Hernandez said that he did not know the full nature or extent of Lyttle’s injuries but considered her unlikely to play in Saturday’s semifinal match against the United States.

Ndongue led the way for France with 14 points, six boards and four blocks. Four other French players – Amant (12 points, four boards, one block), Miyem (11 points, four boards and a block), Digbeu (11 points, four rebounds) and Dumerc (10 points, six boards, seven assists and two steals, but five turnovers – joined Ndongue in double figures.

Vincent took the blame for his team’s upset. “It was my choice,” he said, and proved to be “my mistake,” to leave his best players on the floor, hoping to use them to advantage with the pick and roll. Instead, he said, they ran out of steam late in the game. Alluding to Dumerc, he noted his star’s inability to knock down even her lay-ups and free throws by late in the game. Spain, on the other hand, was “very good, with lots of energy to finish the game,” Vincent stated.

As for Saturday’s semifinals match with the Americans, Valdemoro stated, “For us to be in the semifinals is amazing. We made history … today.”

“We know they [Team USA] are better than us…. They are the best team in the world.” The Americans lost to Russia in the 2006 World Championship semifinals, she noted, but “for 10 years, they didn’t lose.”

“For now,” she said, “let us celebrate this victory.”

Photo Caption: Spanish players and coaches celebrate their upset overtime victory over France and first-ever appearance in the World Championship semifinals.
Photo Credit: Tara Polen

Friday’s Other Games

* = Team Advance to Semifinals

Quarterfinals – Karlovy Vary

  • Belarus* (4-3) 70—Russia (6-1) 53

    High Scorer: Yelena Leuchanka (Belarus) – 17

    High Rebounder: Yelena Leuchanka (Belarus), Irina Osipova (Russia) – 9


  • USA* (7-0) 106—Korea (3-4) 44

    High Scorer: Angel McCoughtry (USA) – 17

    High Rebounder: Candice Dupree (USA) – 16


  • Czech Republic* (5-2) 79—Australia (5-2) 68

    High Scorer: Eva Viteckova (Czech Republic) – 27

    High Rebounder: Elizabeth Cambage (Australia) – 10


  • Spain* (6-1) 74—France (4-3) 71 (OT)

    High Scorer: Amaya Valdemoro (Spain) – 28

    High Rebounder: Sancho Lyttle (Spain) – 9



Originally published Fri, October 01, 2010

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
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Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.