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Saturday , January 16 2021

Gasol completes historic double as Spain crowned W. Cup champions

Argentina settle for 2nd; France beat Australia 67-59 for bronze medal

Members of Spanish team celebrate with their winning trophy during the FIBA Basketball World Cup Final at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing on Sept 15. Spain have captured their second World Cup championship, defeating Argentina 95-75 on Sunday to give Marc Gasol a rare double-title year. (AP)

BEIJING, Sept 15, (AP): Marc Gasol looked to the sky as confetti fell, some sticking to his massive shoulders, and then cradled and kissed the giant golden chalice that goes to the World Cup champions.

He’s getting good at hoisting trophies.

Gasol got to bask in a championship celebration for the second time in three months – and this time, he did it for his country. Tournament MVP Ricky Rubio scored 20 points, Sergio Llull added 15 and Spain won the World Cup for the second time by topping Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.

Gasol scored 14 for the winners, who never trailed and added this crown to the one it claimed in 2006. And for him, 2019 will go down as a year the likes of which few others have enjoyed.

The Toronto Raptors center becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year, joining Lamar Odom – who did it for the Los Angeles Lakers and USA Basketball in 2010. Gasol also became the 19th to win either an NBA or WNBA crown along with a gold medal, either of the Olympic or World Cup variety, in the same year.

The first 18 all did it for the US.

This time, Vamos España!

Llull and Rudy Fernandez – the team captain, the one who initially got to accept the Naismith Trophy – went to cut down the nets shortly after the final buzzer. Gasol carried the game ball to the gold-medal ceremony, and Spanish fans wept in the stands during the national anthem.

Gabriel Deck scored 24 points for Argentina (8-1), which got off to a slow start and played uphill the rest of the way. Luis Scola was held to eight points, shooting 1 for 10 from the floor.

Spain led 43-31 at the half, riding the strength of two big runs.

Spain ran out to a quick 14-2 lead, only to have Argentina answer with an 11-0 spurt. But when that ended, Spain came back with a 17-1 run and took what was then its biggest lead at 31-14.

Scola, even at 39 years old still Argentina’s best player throughout the tournament, didn’t get on the scoresheet until he made a pair of free throws with 2:57 left in the third. But they only cut the Spain lead to 19, and by then the Argentinian fans – who stood in the stands a few rows from their team’s bench, singing and chanting for much of the game – were relatively quiet.

The day belonged to Spain.

And the year belongs to Gasol.

Earlier on Sunday, France defeated Australia 67-59 to take the third-place game in the World Cup. It was France’s second straight bronze medal in the event and matches its best finish.

Australia, which led for most of the game, failed again to win any medal in a major international basketball tournament. The Boomers are 0-4 in Olympic bronze-medal games, and now 0-1 in the World Cup – previously known as the World Championship.

Nando De Colo scored 19 to lead France with 16 from Evan Fournier. Joe Ingles had 17 for Australia with 15 from Patty Mills. Utah Jazz center Ruby Gobert, who scored 21 against the United States in a quarter-final victory had only 2 points.

Australia led for the entire game until France inched ahead 47-46 on two free throws with 9:01 left in the game. France continued to surge with Australia looking exhausted – much like its loss in the semifinals against Spain.

France’s poor shooting and Australia’s defense meant a low-scoring first half, which Australia led 30-21. France shot only 25 percent from the floor, with many shots missed from inside.

Australia built a 40-25 lead to open the third quarter. But then France finally awakened, and cut the lead to 46-42 after three quarters with Nando De Colo, Evan Fournier and Vincent Poirier carrying the scoring load heading into the deciding final quarter.

Australia will have to agonize over another chance for its first World Cup or Olympic medal slipping away.

The Boomers are now 0-5 in bronze-medal games on the sport’s top international stages – with all four of the previous chances coming at the Olympics. They lost 89-88 to Spain in the 2016 bronze game at Rio, 89-71 to Lithuania at the 2000 Sydney Games, 80-74 to Lithuania at Atlanta in 1996 and 78-49 to the US at Seoul in 1988.

France took silver in the 1948 and 2000 Olympics. France was also the bronze medalist in the last World Championship (now World Cup) in 2014 and finished fourth in 1954.

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