EuroBasket 2011, Final: September 18

Sep 18, 2011 by Print
Spain 98-85 Frace, Spain golden in historic repeat!

Spain Champ Eurobasket 2011 (photo FIBA Europe)History was made at EuroBasket 2011 on Sunday when Spain became just the fourth country ever, and the first this century, to win back-to-back gold medals as it outpaced France 98-85 before a sellout crowd of 15,440 at Zalgirio Arena in Kaunas, Lithuania. Spain had the most points in a final in more than 20 years and was the first country to repeat as champion since Yugoslavia in 1997. There was no doubt about the MVP after Turkish Airlines Euroleague legend Juan Carlos Navarro of FC Regal Barcelona poured in 27 points and dished 5 assists to lead Spain. He had 35 points in the semifinal win over F.Y.R. of Macedonia and 26 in the quarters against Slovenia, for an average of 29.3 in knockout games. Navarro's pass to Pau Gasol for an alley-oop dunk gave Spain its first double-digit lead, 36-26, midway through the second quarter. It was never seriously threatened thereafter, but France didn't give up, either, which produced some spectacular play. Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon added 17 points each for the winners, while Rudy Fernandez put up 14 and Marc Gasol 11. Spain had 10 blocks, including 5 by Serge Ibaka, to just 1 for France, while commiting only 8 turnovers to 15 for the losers. Tony Parker had 26 points to lead France and joined Navarro on the All-EuroBasket 2011 team alongside Pau Gasol, Andrei Kirilenko of Russia and Bo McCalebb of FYROM.

France opened the action with back-to-back dunks that Navarro answered with a step-back triple and an assist to Pau Gasol. Both teams kept finding unusually easy baskets inside, but with 5 points from Jose Calderon, Spain sneaked ahead 13-10. Navarro's free throws and assist to Marc Gasol ended a 9-2 run with Spain up 17-12 and forced a timeout by France. Parker recharged France with a stop-and-pop jumper that Rudy Fernandez, the last Spanish starter to score, matched. When Navarro sank another triple, however, Parker matched that. But the fireworks were just starting. Marc Gasol launched next, off-balance from downtown, but was followed by Batum from the wing, making it a 25-20 lead for Spain after the first quarter.

Juan Carlos Navarro - Spain (photo Rodolfo Molina)After Ricky Rubio went off the court with an eye injury, a pair of spectacular blocks by Serge Ibaka intimidated France and let Spain open a 29-20. Just as quickly, France got back-to-back triples from Mickael Gelablale of Spirou Belgacom and Parker got France closer, but Navarro answered with his three-point bomba-plus-free throw. After another swooping block by Ibaka, Navarro fed Pau Gasol for an alley-oop dunk to open the first double-digit lead, 36-26, and force a French timeout. Despite more free throws by Navarro, France got rejuvenated by Batum dunking and Boris Diaw draining a three-pointer, however Ibaka's fifth block and first points fell in between, making it 40-31. Fernandez restored Spain's double-digit lead twice, the second time with a reach-back tip-in that brought down the house. But after that, he brought down Parker with an unsportsmanlike foul. As Parker left the floor, Nando De Colo dropped both free throws and assisted a triple by Batum, who then stole and dunked to make it 46-41. Spain needed a timeout, after which the ball went to Pau Gasol, whose 4 points let Spain breathe easier again with a 50-41 halftime lead.

Diaw responded to Navarro's free throws with a great pass dunked by Pietrus. Amid much more physical play, Noah and Parker added baskets, too, as France trimmed the difference to 56-49. But Spain was not about to let its lead dwindle more. After more free throws by Navarro, his give-and-go ricocheted from Marc to Pau Gasol for a beautiful dunk that made it 60-49 and forced France to take a timeout. France reacted with a steal and fastbreak triple by Gelabale and a jumper by Noah, who had previously blocked Pau Gasol's shot. With France within 7 points, 61-54, Navarro made magic again with a drifting three-pointer and an even tougher shot just inside the arc. His assist to Sergio Llull of Real Madrid was bettered only by Fernandez's pass to Victor Sada of FC Barcelona Regal for an alley-oop before the buzzer that left Spain in charge of the scoreboard, 75-62, after 30 minutes.

Spain stretched the lead to 79-64 on a fastbreak by Sada, and after a French timeout, got another breakaway dunked by Fernandez. Spain's lead was lengthened to 84-68 on a corner triple by Pau Gasol. Parker tried everything to spark a French comeback, and got help from Diaw to make it 84-72 with 5 minutes left. That's when Navarro reappeared to make 3 of 3 free throws. Diaw had a triple, but the luck remained with Spain as Calderon escaped for an open dunk. It was 89-75 with more than 3 minutes left, and the celebration starting among fans of Spain. Navarro had another unbelievable running jumper left in him, and an assist to Felipe Reyes of Real Madrid, whose father died during the team training camp and who had just taken the floor. Then Navarro came out to an ovation proclaiming him MVP, the team captain taking another trophy for the record books.