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Women’s EuroBasket 2019 analysis: Spain repeats championship and 3 things we learned overall

Spain defeats France, 86-66, for the gold medal and Serbia beat Great Britain, 81-55, for the bronze. Belgium and Sweden clinched Europe’s remaining Olympic Qualifying Tournament berths.

FIBA Women’s Eurobasket - Semi Finals
Marta Xargay led Spain to its second consecutive FIBA Women’s EuroBasket championship.
Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2019 is now complete! Spain won its second consecutive European championship, defeating France 86-66 on Sunday in Belgrade, Serbia. The championship game wasn’t very competitive from the start as the Spanish raced to a 32-21 first quarter lead and never looked back.

Astou Ndour has shined in most of her games for the Spanish. But in the Final, Marta Xargay scored 23 points to lead Spain to victory.

The French also committed 16 turnovers, including five by Bria Hartley, who scored 17 points off the bench. France was also out-rebounded 39-27 and shot just 12-of-21 from the free throw line, contributing to the lopsided result.

In the bronze medal game, Serbia beat Great Britain, 81-55. Like the gold medal game, Serbia was in control throughout, but things didn’t get that ugly until the third quarter when they outscored the British, 21-6.

Sonja Petrovic scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Serbians. Temi Fagbenle scored 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting for Great Britain.

With Women’s EuroBasket now finished, here are three things we learned from the tournament:

The traditional European powers still run the show

Spain, France and Serbia are among the countries that have won medals in Women’s EuroBasket in recent years. Though Serbia missed out on the World Cup in 2018 due to an early EuroBasket exit the year before, they bounced back this time to win bronze.

As for Spain and France, both teams suffered defeats to Belgium in the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup which prevented them from longer tournament runs. Though Spain did not face Belgium in EuroBasket, France got revenge in this year’s quarterfinals, in part because of the addition of Liberty guard Bria Hartley.

Spain reasserted its dominance in Europe even without UMMC Ekaterinburg forward Alba Torrens. In her place, Ndour stepped up as smoothly as anyone would have hoped.

Belgium must adjust to being “the hunted”

Emma Meesseman, Kim Mestdagh and the Belgian Cats have been darlings in each of the last two years when their national team won the 2017 bronze medal in EuroBasket and finished fourth in the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. Their mostly young squad took advantage of many world powers in surprising ways.

This time around, European teams were quick to bring their “A” game against the Cats. Belarus and Serbia beat Belgium in late-game situations in the group stage. France beat them in overtime in the quarterfinals. And Slovenia almost defeated the Cats in the quarterfinal playoffs.

There is no doubt that Belgium is much better in women’s basketball than they were in years past. However, we are getting a better feel of where they truly rank within Europe and the world.

Does Belgium have one of the better teams in Europe now? Yes.

But are the Belgian Cats truly elite within Europe? After this tournament, not really. Belgium accomplished its goal to win an Olympic Qualifying Tournament spot but they could and probably should have finished higher than sixth.

The new Olympic qualifier tournament format still allowed up-and-coming teams to claim spots

In addition to Spain, France, Serbia and Belgium, Great Britain and Sweden also earned Olympic Qualifying Tournament berths. They were also this year’s tournament darlings.

The British made the semifinals after a 62-59 win over Hungary in the quarterfinals and gave France a close fight in a 63-56 loss. Lynx forward Temi Fagbenle averaged 20.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in the competition for Great Britain.

Sweden came into EuroBasket as the No. 41 team in the world. Despite their low ranking and missing out in 2017’s EuroBasket, the Swedish clinched an Olympic Qualifying Tournament berth with a 57-52 win over the favored Russians in their qualifying playoff game. Liberty center Amanda Zahui B. was their leading player; she averaged 13.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in the competition.