In a small 1,750-seat arena in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, USF guard Laia Flores and forward Laura Ferreira found themselves facing off against each other as Spain and Portugal met in the final pool game of the European Under 20 Women’s Basketball Championship. Undefeated Spain was riding high knowing they did not need to win this game; Portugal was fighting for survival after going 2-2 in the first four games of pool play.
USF’s Laia Flores had played about one half of each game for Spain, averaging about five points each time. Her best game had been against Hungary, in which she drained a three-pointer to put Spain up by ten in the first quarter and later hit four free throws to end up with seven points, two steals, two assists and a rebound. USF guard/forward Ariadna Pujol was expected to join Flores on the Spanish team, but she has an injured right knee as I understand it. She still traveled with the team to Lanzarote for the competition.
Laura Ferreira, USF’s sharpshooting forward, had been keeping Portugal afloat in this competition. She scored 68 points in the first four games including double-doubles against Belgium and Hungary and a 21-point performance in Portugal’s stomping of the Ukrainian team.
In this evening’s game, Portugal came out strong, fouling Leticia Romero (of Florida State), stealing a pass and scoring on a fast break layup. They went shot for shot against Spain, ending the first quarter with a three-pointer from Ferreira which put the Portuguese up 16-15. Flores then scored five consecutive Spanish points to start the second quarter. The college teammates often guarded each other in this game; Ferreira even stole the ball from Flores midway through the second quarter during a Portuguese rally in which she scored a basket to give Portugal a 28-27 half time lead.
Flores connected from beyond the arc to start the third quarter; Ferreira countered with two points to tie the game at 30. Spain’s shots started falling and rebounds started escaping the Portuguese. Spain had control of the game. The Spanish fans banged drums and sounded air horns with each possession. Portugal looked desperate; Spain looked like they were having fun. The Portuguese got back within six points a minute into the fourth quarter, but Spain pulled away easily, building a final score of 59-44. Ferreira made a couple of free throws in the last minutes to finish with eleven points, seven rebounds, two assists and a steal.
After the final buzzer the opposing players slapped hands, but Ferreira and Flores embraced. In another six weeks, they will be USF Bulls again.
Flores’ nine points and six rebounds made her best performance so far in Lanzarote, and she will play a key role on the heavily favored Spanish team as they move into tournament play against Latvia or the Slovak Republic. Portugal’s point differential qualifies them to move on and Ferreira will now lead her team against the undefeated French.