Women’s EuroBasket: A gold medal reflects Spain’s golden generation

first_imgIn a typical post-game press conference, Spain Head Coach Lucas Mondelo begins by explaining his strategy for the game that has just ended in a very formulaic manner before opening up to questions. But at the end of the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket final against France he began talking straight from the heart. He said: “I’m not going to talk tactically about anything. https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/1f/40/laia-palau-spain-fiba_speq8ifohiel1sf2v9bb2ws8l.jpg?t=-790739573&w=500&quality=80 “After a long time with this team, it’s incredible how they are able to surprise me as a coach every day. I would like to thank everybody players and staff because I’m able to live this experience as the face of the team in these press conferences, but I’d like to thank everybody. And I would especially like to thank Laia Palau, because she makes every coach she plays for a championship coach.”Palau was sat next to Mondelo, grinning from ear-to-ear, holding back eyes full of joyful tears after her team won a second consecutive EuroBasket for the first time since the Soviet Union in 1991. And history was on the mind of the 39-year-old point guard, who said: “This group has grown up since 2013 and right now they are in the best moment as mature players. They are not old but their careers are amazing already, they know how to be on the court and have this experience.  “One day for sure it cannot be like this because we will be really old, but we are showing that experience is important. If your legs are following you, and your brain is working, I think this group can have at least two more years [of high level basketball], not me, but this group – they can play amazing basketball.”Another player who has been with the squad for a number of is Laura Nicholls, the second-longest tenured Spanish player in this iteration of the team. Holding the EuroBasket trophy with two medals around her neck – one gold, and another made of twine cut down from the hoop – she was also taking a moment to reminisce about the incredible run this Spanish team has put together: “In 2011, when we got eliminated from EuroBasket, we learned that it doesn’t really matter who you are, you have to give your best every second in practice or the game or you will go home. I remember having this feeling of emptiness, and we always took this away to get better as a team.“I think we can see how we have been growing up. On the court we have our own personality, our own way of playing – go hard or go home. I can see how it started changing in 2015 when we started winning several medals in a row. It doesn’t matter who we have in front of us, we don’t see any color or any national team or any players that can be better than us.”It certainly wasn’t going to be France, as the neighbouring nation will be feeling bleu after a lacklustre performance. After letting Marta Xargay get loose for three open threes in the first quarter for Spain, the French were playing from behind, and too few players turned up to play in the second half to get the team back in to the contest. One player that turned up was Bria Hartley. After going 2/4 in the first half, she came out of the locker room with plenty of energy and shot 4/5, including a step-back three-point shot after she had got in rhythm with consecutive scoring plays. She said: “I was just trying to go out there and work as hard as possible and just try to make plays for the team to have a fighting chance. The game didn’t really go the way that we wanted to but I tried to give it my all until the end.” https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/6a/cb/marta-xargay-spain-fiba_1keynz16xi40c1woqhg5i4ehi9.jpg?t=-790284461&w=500&quality=80 Sadly, it wasn’t enough, and once again it was left to France Head Coach Valerie Garnier to search for positives after a fourth runner-up experience in four straight EuroBasket tournaments. She said: “My team is very young but this is our fourth final in a row and it’s difficult because we would like to finish one EuroBasket with a victory, but it’s like this, we have to continue to work a lot.“It’s a very good experience for our young players. They have improved and they grown in this tournament and we have to prepare for the future.” The future for Spain, however, is hopeful for even greater things. While Palau hinted that she might not be playing in two years time, the team didn’t play with the MVP of the last EuroBasket, Alba Torrens. Before the next EuroBasket, however, is Tokyo 2020. Nicholls said: “I don’t think about Olympics at the moment. We all just deserve to enjoy this, go on holidays, to be with our family and when you bring it home to your family and friends you can start really enjoying it.”last_img read more