ORTONA (FIBA Europe Championship for Women)
In a pivotal day of Group F qualifying round action in Italy, Les Bleues looked to be in command against the undefeated Spanish early in the fourth quarter with Jacques Commeres’ team playing its intense man-to-man defense and leading 48-42.
But Spain scored 13 unanswered points and the French got no closer than four points the rest of the way.
Amaya Valdemoro, as she has so often for Spain over the years, played inspired basketball on both ends of the floor with 17 points and four steals.
Isabel Sanchez, the 30-year-old Spain rookie, also excelled with 15 points off the bench.
Sandrine Gruda, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds for France, said: “We just stopped playing after three quarters. I don’t know why, because we really wanted to win this game.”
Russia lost 67-65 to Serbia on Saturday and they gave the perfect answer to their critics with a mauling of Belarus.
Igor Grudin’s team broke open a close game midway through the second quarter against Belarus and led by as many as 30 points before easing to victory in the fourth quarter.
“Today, we had a very aggressive defense, everyone got out on the fast break,” said Russia’s Natalia Vodopyanova.
Ilona Korstin led Russia with a game-high 21 points on eight of 11 from the floor.
Russia won the rebounding battle 50-25. Eighteen of those Russian rebounds came on the offensive boards.
Italy’s Francesca Modesca had a game-high 13 points while the Azzurre had three other players finishing double figures.
The results mean that Spain top Group F with Russia second, France third, Belarus fourth, Italy fifth and Serbia sixth with one more day of games in that pool to be played on Wednesday in Ortona.