European basketball crown stays in Spain

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European basketball crown stays in Spain

KAUNAS, Lithuania - Spain won its second consecutive European basketball championship after beating France 98-85 in a spectacular final in front of 15,000 fans in the Zhalgiris Arena on Sunday.

Spain’s starting five scored a whopping 86 points, more than the entire 12-man French roster, as the champions demonstrated their class and finished the gruelling 24-team tournament with an impressive 10-1 record.

Spain, led by inspirational point guard Juan Carlos Navarro with 27 points, also became the first team to win back-to-back titles since the former Yugoslavia team did so in the 1995 and 1997 tournaments.

Jose Luis Calderon and Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol added 17 points each for Spain, with the latter also collecting 10 rebounds. Rudy Fernandez, now playing with the Dallas Mavericks, added 14, while Pau’s brother and Memphis Grizzlies star Marc Gasol chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds.

Earlier on Sunday, 2007 champions Russia won the bronze medal with a dramatic 72-68 win over the tournament’s surprise package Macedonia.

Spain and France also qualified automatically for the 2012 Olympics in London along with hosts Britain, while Russia, Macedonia, Lithuania and Greece will enter an intercontinental 12-team tournament for another three berths next year.

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