KLAIPEDA/PANEVEZYS (FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - There were no surprises in the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women as the quartet of pre-tournament favourites, Australia, France, Spain and USA all reached the last four of the competition in Klaipeda.
Although whilst it may have looked convincing, an 80-62 success for Spain against Canada was far from straightforward, with the Spanish needing a stunning final quarter run to maintain their perfect record.
Trailing 60-57 with seven minutes left on the clock, Spain had been put under severe pressure by the Canadians, who were playing some of their best basketball of the tournament.
However, the Spanish stepped up their trademark pressing defense and Canada buckled as Spain posted a spectacular 13 points without reply to take complete control in a one-sided 29-7 final period.
Whilst Emma Wolfram broke the offensive drought for Canada, the damage had already been done due to a succession of turnovers.
And, their fate was sealed when Ariadna Pujol hit a huge three-pointer on the shot clock buzzer, to hand Spain an unassailable double-digit advantage with three minutes to go.
Spanish captain Irene Gari was on fire with 20 points, whilst Leticia Romero had a terrific 15 points and 11 assists. Wolfram stood out in defeat with 13 points from five of six floor shooting.
Australia also had to work hard to advance and eventually punched their ticket thanks to a typically all-action and classy contribution from Stephanie Talbot, who took over during crunch time against China to fuel a 74-65 win.
With the game still delicately poised and far from decided at 62-57 to the Gems with three minutes remaining, Talbot made the game safe with a sublime 60 seconds, when she made big plays at both ends of the floor to double the advantage for her team.
After firstly sinking a three-ball, she then grabbed a steal and converted a fast-break score, before returning back down the floor to grab another steal.
Talbot finished with one of the best lines of the entire tournament, racking up 22 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, four steals and three blocked shots.
France shrugged off a worrying third quarter drought against Brazil, to collect a 51-39 success, despite being without injured shooting guard Lidija Turcinovic. Les Bleues were rampant from the tip-off, building a 25-12 lead, and were still in the box-seat at the half.
However, the wheels almost come off in spectacular fashion as Brazil returned to the court with renewed vigour and a rejuvenated defensive intensity. Janeth Arcain and her team made some adjustments and locked down the French offence by holding their opponents to a paltry three points in nine minutes.
That enabled them to make it a one-shot game at 34-32, but crucially, France doubled their scoring for period with a big triple by Marie-Eve Paget.
It gave France a kickstart for the final quarter and the game turned heavily back in their favour when firstly Paget made another triple and Valeriane Ayayi dropped successive downtown daggers to make it 48-35 and effectively kill-off Brazilian hopes.
Ayayi and point guard Olivia Epoupa got the job done for their team with a shared 34 points, 14 rebounds.
The USA barely missed a beat as they coasted to a convincing 108-67 success against Japan to remain undefeated after seven outings.
Forward A'Ja Wilson led the way with another sparkling effort which culminated in 19 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Linnae Harper also caught the eye again in the backcourt with 12 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Japan had initially managed to hang on and just about keep pace with the tournament favourites during the first five minutes or so when Mirai Tamura made it a one-shot game at 12-9 after dropping a triple.
But, when USA put their foot on the accelerator it was one-way traffic for the remainder of the game.
Australia will now match up with the USA in the last four, whilst the other Semi-Final will be an all-European affair between France and Spain.
Russia and Netherlands will fight it out for ninth place, after claiming wins against Lithuania and Serbia respectively, who will in turn, compete for the 11th place. Russia left it late against Lithuania, with a final quarter onslaught and an outstanding 19 points and 16 rebounds from Anna Schetina taking them to an 82-68 victory.
Netherlands and Serbia were involved in an intense duel with the Dutch sneaking an exciting 66-65 victory in an absorbing contest. Kourtney Treffers accumulated a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, whilst frontcourt partner Emese Hof impressed too, also snapping up 10 boards. Katarina Vuckovic scored 17 points and had three steals for the losing team.