For Spain, almost all of the names on the national team’s roster have changed in recent years.
The expectations didn’t. And neither did the results.
Juancho Hernangomez scored 27 points, his brother Willy Hernangomez added 14 and earned tournament MVP honors, and Spain topped France 88-76 on Sunday to win the EuroBasket gold medal.
It was Spain’s fourth European championship in its past six tries, all those golds coming under coach Sergio Scariolo.
“It’s easy to say that we are extremely happy,” Scariolo said. “We got into this championship in eighth place in the power ranking, and we managed to climb, step by step. … It’s been amazing now to see we are above all those great teams.”
Lorenzo Brown scored 14 points and had 11 assists for Spain, while Jaime Fernandez scored 13.
Evan Fournier led France — which also dropped the gold-medal game at the Tokyo Olympics to the U.S. last summer — with 23 points, while Thomas Heurtel scored 16 and Guerschon Yabusele added 13.
Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves was held to only six points on just two shots from the field for France.
“Spain played better from start to finish,” said Fournier, who plays with the New York Knicks. “They had a clear game plan, and we did not execute ours well enough. … We never really had control of the game. They just played better, man, period.”
This was supposed to be a rebuilding summer for Spain.
Pau and Marc Gasol, the longtime leaders of the program, retired from international play following a quarterfinal loss to the U.S. at the Tokyo Games. Sergio Gonzalez also decided last summer was the right time to walk away, after 16 years with the national team. Sergio Llull and Ricky Rubio, two more of the team’s veterans, couldn’t play because of injuries.
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The winning tradition continued anyway.
Spain is now the reigning Basketball World Cup (won in China in 2019) and EuroBasket champion. It has also medaled in 10 of its past 11 EuroBasket appearances.
“It’s hard to explain with words how I feel,” said Willy Hernangomez, who plays in the NBA for New Orleans. “I’m feeling extremely proud of my teammates, of my coaching staff, of all the Spanish federation from the top to the bottom. We much deserve this gold medal.”
But this young crew also had the exuberance of youth: As Scariolo and Willy Hernangomez were trying to hold a postgame news conference, the rest of Spain’s roster crashed the session, armed with water bottles, and soaked the MVP and their coach.
“That’s the dark side of having a young team,” Scariolo said, as he happily dabbed at his face with a towel. “I don’t see Pau Gasol throwing water around.”
For France, it was another medal — and another instance of coming up a bit short of the shiniest medal. France’s last major crown came in winning EuroBasket in 2013. Since then, the French have obtained two bronzes at the World Cup (2014, 2019), a bronze at EuroBasket (2015), silver at the Tokyo Olympics and now silver again.
The difference was clear: Spain held a massive 35-7 edge in points off turnovers.
“Today, obviously, we have lost the gold,” France coach Vincent Collet said. “They executed their plan perfect.”
Juancho Hernangomez was 6-for-6 from 3-point range in a six-minute span of the second quarter, helping Spain extend what was a 23-14 lead into a 45-26 edge with just about three minutes left in the half.
It was perhaps a mildly unlikely source for a 3-point barrage. He had made a total of 12 3s in his eight previous games in this year’s EuroBasket tournament, and his high in any NBA game is six.
“We needed him today and he was there for us,” Willy Hernangomez said.
An 11-0 run helped France cut what had been a 21-point deficit to just 47-37 at the half — and the momentum carried into the third quarter.
Yabusele’s jumper with 6:52 left in the third got France within 49-46, and everything seemed to be shifting.
But Spain held on. Juancho Hernangomez’s seventh 3-pointer with 7:29 left made it a 71-61 game, and the outcome wasn’t in doubt again. “I cannot be happier as a basketball coach,” Scariolo said.
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