The 2015 Euro-Basket tournament came to an end on September 20, 2015 with two-time champion Spain winning it for the third time in the 39th edition of the FIBA sponsored biennial event. In the gold-medal match in the French city of Lille, Spain defeated 2003 champion Lithuania 80-63. The star of Spain’s victory was the talented Pau Gasol, who scored 25 points and earned the honor of being named the MVP. This year’s edition of Euro-Basket had an added significance, since it also served as qualifying tournament for 2016 Rio Olympic Games. While Spain and Lithuania have automatically qualified for Rio Games as champion and runner-up, France, Serbia, Greece, Italy and Czech Republic, who were the next five teams in final standings; booked places in next year’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.
Spain is one of Europe’s strongest basketball teams and at the global level; they come quite close to the world champions USA. In the final against Lithuania on Sunday, Sergio Llull led the early scoring for Spain with back-to-back layups with a baseline jumper by Rudy Fernandez giving them a 6-2 lead. This quickly became 15-4, when Fernandez struck from long range and Pau Gasol scored from a jumper. The 7-feet tall Gasol, whose tremendous efforts with 40 points in the semifinal against France; were largely responsible for Spain’s victory; produced another solid performance. After 10 minutes, Spain led 19-8 and their outstanding defense prevented Lithuania from scoring easy points. Early in the second quarter, Spain led 25-10 and though Lithuania fought hard, they couldn’t match Gasol and his colleagues. As Spain broke away to a 34-18 lead, Lithuania’s Seibutis played superbly to counter the runaway Spaniards and brought his team to within a single-digit gap at 37-29. At halftime, Spain led 40-31.
In the third quarter, Pau Ribas, and Sergio Llull took Spain’s lead to 45-33. Although Lithuania’s Antanas Kavaliausks reduced the margin, a 7-0 run from Ribas with a three-pointer made it 52-35. Spain kept up the pressure and Gasol helped his team to a 60-43 margin that proved unassailable as Spain won their third title with the score of 80-63. The victory also automatically qualified them for 2016 Rio Games along with runner-up Lithuania.
In the bronze medal game, France defeated Serbia 81-68 to earn their third consecutive Euro-Basket medal after they won silver in 2011 and gold in 2013. It was the first time since 2009 that Serbia had missed the chance to get a Euro-Basket medal. For the French team, Nando De Colo of CSKA Moscow was the star with 20 points, while Evan Fournier added 15, Rudy Gobert scored 14 with 14 rebounds for a double-double and Tony Parker got 13 points. For Serbia, the charge was led by Fenerbahce Istanbul’s Bogdan Bogdanovic with 14 points. Other Serbian scorers included Nemanja Bjelica with 12 while and Miroslav Raduljica added 11.
As many as 14 Turkish Airlines Euro-league and Euro-cup players featured in the game, including top scorers from either side. De Colo got into his act early and began the scoring for France with a corner triple and soon added a backdoor layup for a 5-2 lead. But Serbia didn’t allow France to run away with the match and efforts from Bogdanovic tied the score 16-16 after 10 minutes. Bogdanovic continued his offensive and took Serbia into a 20-16 lead early in the second quarter. But France were back into the lead soon with a 7-point run, out of which Fournier scored 5. Stefan Markovic of Serbia tried to stem the French progress with two long-distance baskets but Gobert and De Colo answered and kept France ahead. Halftime ended in France’s favor at 37-32. After the break, the pace of the game got quicker. De Colo kept scoring and his efforts translated into a 50-39 lead for France. Serbia called timeout but nothing came off it as France extended the lead to 58-44, when the third quarter ended. Raduljica and Markovic tried to revive Serbia and reduced the deficit somewhat. With 4 minutes left, France led 64-55. In final minutes, Fournier produced a great basket and with his colleagues helping, France finished the match at 81-68 and 20,000 fans began the celebrations at Lille for a well-deserved win for their country.
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