Spain continued their unbeaten run at the FIBA World Championship for Women with a 69-57 triumph over Brazil on Saturday.
The victory clinched first place in Group C for Jose Ignacio Hernandez’s team.
In the other game in Brno, Korea survived in overtime against Mali, 68-66, to finish in second place.
Despite conceding their second loss in three games, Brazil clinched the last qualifying spot.
Spain’s impressive win was an all-round team effort.
With national team newcomer Sancho Lyttle, who had led the Spaniards to victories over Mali and Korea, taking a seat six minutes into the game after picking up her second foul, others took center stage.
Spain trailed 15-13 with 11 seconds to go in the first quarter but then took control and it was because of their defense.
They outscored Brazil 24-8 the remainder of the half for a 37-23 advantage.
Marta Fernandez poured in seven points and Amaya Valdemoro five in that run. After the game Valdemoro visited with FIBATV.com.
Spain came up with 11 steals and forced Brazil into making 18 of their 25 turnovers in the first half.
The European team’s lead ballooned to 60-38 heading into the final frame, with Valdemoro contributing nine points in the third quarter.
Brazil cut the deficit to 65-53 with 1:50 to go but got no closer.
Erika de Souza led Brazil with 14 points and 13 rebounds while teammate Iziane finished with 12 on five of 16 (31%) shooting from the floor.
“When you play against a team like Spain, you cannot afford to give away so many turnovers,” said Iziane. “That was the difference in the first half.
“It was very hard to come back from that deficit.
“We played better at the end but it wasn’t enough.
“We better turn it around because if we continue to play like this, we will not go any further. This isn’t good enough.
“We have to get our heads in our pillows and think about how we can improve to bring up better basketball in the next round.”
Spain’s confidence is now soaring.
“We knew from experience that we couldn’t let Brazil take the iniative early on,” said Valdemoro, who had a game-high 17 points and came up with four of Spain’s 16 steals.
“Everyone came up strong today.
“We are playing well and we are getting a lot of help from our bench players.”
Earlier in the day, Korea won 68-66 with Yeon Ha Beon pouring in a game-high 21 points.
Looking to build on their strong performance against Brazil when they almost upset the FIBA Americas champions, Mali hit back from a 17-point deficit at the end of the first quarter and threw a real scare into the Koreans.
Hamcheto Maiga Ba’s two free-throws with 3:27 to go lifted Herve Coudray’s team into a 60-56 lead only for Beon to bury two three-pointers for a 62-60 Korea lead.
After Meiya Tirera knotted the game with a basket in the paint, Mali rebounded a missed three-ball by Korea but while trying to hold on for the last shot, Maiga Ba had the ball stolen and the game went to overtime.
Once in the extra period, Mali turned the ball over four times and Korea scored the first four points for a 66-62 lead.
Mali ended the game with a costly turnover.
Diana Gandega was trying to bring the ball up the floor and was under pressure by the Korean defense when she fumbled the ball away with five seconds to go.
The Asian side held on for the victory.
Gandega broke down in tears while an exhausted Korea celebrated their second victory of the competition.
The Asian side went into the game having to do without four injured players.
“It was a difficult game for us,” said Korea coach Chik Dal Lim.
“Mali were taller and bigger than us but our defense was what made the difference.”
Mali outrebounded Korea 51-36.
“We had to play with eight players today and we will have to do the same on Monday as there is no chance any of them will recover,” the Korean coach said.
“I hope we can overcome this.
“Heading into the tournament, our aim was to finish in the top six but considering our situation, that will be very difficult.”
Mali boss Herve Coudray cut a frustrated figure after the final buzzer.
“We made some mistakes at the end and that was the difference,” Coudray, who visited with FIBATV.com after the loss, said.
Maiga Ba and Naignouma Coulibaly had 16 points apiece in defeat.
Mali will travel to Karlovy Vary to play in the Classification Round.
“I’m proud of my team,” said Coudray. “Each day we are closer to winning a game.
“We lost against Brazil yesterday in the final five minutes and today we took the game to overtime. I hope we will win our next game.”
Spain, Brazil and Korea will compete in Group F of the Eighth-Final Round