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Spain beats Belarus for bronze

10/3/2010

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- Sancho Lyttle scored 22 points, Alba Torrens added 19 and Spain beat Belarus 77-68 on Sunday, earning the bronze medal at the women's basketball world championship.

It's the first medal at the worlds in the history of Spanish women's basketball. The team celebrated at halfcourt, dancing as the final buzzer sounded.

Lyttle, who also had 11 rebounds, didn't appear to be bothered at all by the back issue that kept her out of the team's semifinal loss to the U.S.

"There was no doubt I was going to play," Lyttle said. "I rested yesterday and got treatment on my back. I came here to help Spain get a medal."

Anastasiya Verameyenka scored 20 points for Belarus, which finished fourth in its first-ever world championship.

The Belarusians looked exhausted on the court, unable to keep up with Spain.

While Spain rested Lyttle and star guard Amaya Valdemoro against the U.S., Belarus fought hard in an overtime loss to the Czech Republic.

Trailing by 12 at the half, Belarus closed to 46-45 on Yelena Leuchanka's jumper midway though the third quarter. Spain answered with a 12-3 run, capped by Amaya Valdemoro's 3-pointer that made it 58-48.

Valdemoro, who finished with 16 points, missed the second half of the 36-point loss to the U.S. after injuring her ankle in the first half. Coach Jose Hernandez alluded afterward in the postgame press conference that his star guard was fine, and he was just resting her for the bronze medal game.

"I'm so happy for her," Hernandez said. "She's played for 14 or 15 years and is one of the best in Spain's history."

Belarus pulled within six with 3:18 left in the game on Verameyenka's turnaround jumper, but Lyttle's layup and Ana Montanana's jumper sealed the victory.

"We gave everything we could but it wasn't enough," Leuchanka said. "I'm proud that we made it this far in our first tournament."

Torrens helped Spain get off to a sizzling start. The lanky guard scored seven points to power her country to a 17-8 lead. She also had a 3-pointer that extended the lead to 14.

Spain kept the pressure on in the second quarter, leading 39-27 at the half.

Belarus advanced to the semis with an upset win over top-seeded Russia. The Belarusians have improved on the international scene in the last few years. They finished third at the European Championship in 2007 and qualified for their first Olympics in 2008. They placed sixth in Beijing.

Belarus also made a splash at the tournament by wearing dress-like uniforms with shorts.