FIBA U17W - USA retain crown after thriller with Spain
PILSEN (FIBA U17 World Championship for Women) - There was a dramatic conclusion to the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women as holders USA claimed a dramatic 77-75 success against Spain to cling on to their title as Angela Salvadores did her best to end their reign with a monumental 40-point effort.
Salvadores produced arguably the best display the event has seen during its three editions with her stunning display, but USA had Lauren Cox and Asia Durr who helped them avoid a bullet and take a third consecutive gold medal.
Cox claimed an exceptional double-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds and 8 blocks along with Durr who contributed 17 points, both came up with the big plays in crunch time to return their nation back to the top of the podium.
It was breathless stuff throughout and a real treat of the highest order for those in attendance and watching the drama unfold at a relentless pace.
Salvadores kept her team going early as she posted three scores and an assist, the last of which was a beautiful reverse lay-up as Spain trailed 11-8. Moments later, she drained a big three-pointer from the wing, before grabbing a steal and fast-break basket to get Spain to within one at 16-15.
The big question at that moment was whether anyone else from Spain could step up to keep them in the hunt for gold and Iris Junio responded by converting twice from long-range as Spain kept it a one-shot game.
Katie Lou Samuelson then scored from behind the three-point line and at 34-27 there was suddenly some daylight. But Spain kept playing tough defence, epitomised by a spectacular block by Laia Raventos as they clung on 36-31 at the interval.
Two baskets from the hard-nosed Cox and a score by Durr gave USA their first double-figure lead at the start of the third period and it was Cox who continued to shine as USA moved 42-31 ahead.
Yet Spain kept making three-pointers, with Maite Cazorla dropping two in quick succession and when Salvadores re-joined the party with a three-ball ahead of Iho Lopez making a jump-shot, the USA lead was trimmed to just two points at 47-45.
Every time USA looked to pull away, Spain made perimeter shots and so much so, that Maite Cazorla and Salvadores gave them a 62-60 lead in the fourth quarter.
As USA levelled matters, it was still locked up at 71-71 with just 90 seconds remaining and it was Cox and Durr who saved the day for the champions.
Cox grabbed a score and put up a big defensive block prior to Durr making a nice play and icing the free-throws to deny Spain and the stellar Salvadores.