U.S. to play Czech Republic in final
KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- Tamika Catchings scored 14 points to lead the United States to a 106-70 victory over Spain and into the gold-medal game of the women's basketball world championship.
Sylvia Fowles added 13 points and Diana Taurasi 11 for the Americans (8-0), who will face the host Czech Republic for the title Sunday. It sets up a similar gold-medal matchup to the men's worlds, where the U.S. team beat host Turkey to win the gold.
The Czech Republic, before a raucous crowd, beat Belarus 81-77 in overtime, with Eva Viteckova scoring 18 of her 21 points in the second half and overtime.
"Tomorrow night is going to be in one of the most difficult changes for this team, playing the Czechs on their home court with all their fans," U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's been a Cinderella run for them. The emotions and energy this building is going to have. This will be a great place to be tomorrow."
The U.S. once again got off to a strong start -- scoring 11 of the first 12 points -- in making up for a bronze-medal finish at the 2006 worlds, where it lost to Russia in the semifinals. The Americans will be trying for their eighth gold medal in the worlds.
"It's going to be very important to get off to a great start," point guard Sue Bird said. "You can play in a lot of games, WNBA, college, and not the entire building is going to be cheering against you. We'll have our little section."
Marta Fernandez had 16 to lead Spain (6-2), which will take on Belarus for the bronze.
The Americans have run through their opponents, winning by 37 points a game. It's the most dominant performance ever by the U.S. at a world championship.
How good is this team? They haven't trailed at all in the past four games and for only 21 minutes the entire tournament.
Catchings got things started by hitting a 3-pointer 14 seconds into the game. Taurasi added another 3 a minute later that made it 8-1.
Voepel: Host Czechs await Team USA
Bronze wasn't enough in 2006. But if the U.S. women are to win gold Sunday at the world championship, they'll need to beat the host nation in the final, writes Mechelle Voepel. Story
Spain cut its deficit to 11-5, but the U.S. was just getting rolling. Another 3-pointer by Catchings made it 20-9 with 3:52 left in the period. By the end of the first quarter the U.S. led 29-16.
The Spain got within 34-22 early in the second, but another Taurasi 3-pointer and Sue Bird's pull-up jumper extended the lead back to 17. On the next play Amaya Valdemoro hurt her ankle. The star guard, who is Spain's all-time leading scorer, sat out for 5 minutes while trainers worked on it before she returned.
For the second game in a row, the only suspense left in the fourth quarter was whether the United States would reach 100 points for the 17th time in world championship play.
Asjha Jones hit a jumper to put them over the plateau for the fourth time in the tournament, matching the 1994 squad.
Even with the loss, Spain is guaranteed of its best finish at the worlds. After beating France in the quarterfinals, Valdemoro said that she was as happy as she's ever been playing for her national team.
The Spaniards knew they'd be overmatched against the U.S., having lost to the Americans in an exhibition game in September. The monumental task of an upset was even more difficult as star center Sancho Lyttle didn't play because of a back injury she suffered in the quarterfinals.
"Valdemoro is fine," Spain's coach Jose Hernandez said through an interpreter. "Sancho has a pain in her back, we'll see how she rests tonight. It depends on she feels in warmups."
This was the first time that the Czechs had advanced to the medal round since dissolving from Slovakia in 1993. The former Czechoslovakia won two silver medals and four bronzes from 1953 to 1975.
"The original plan was to be one of the eight best teams," Czech coach Lubor Blazek said. "Then we wanted to progress into the top four, but then we decided we just had to go to the finals."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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