Olympic basketball qualifying: Spain survives semifinals scare vs. Finland, will play Bahamas in finals Sunday



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Early in the fourth quarter in Saturday’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament semifinals game against Finland, Spain found itself in an uncomfortable position. It wasn’t facing an insurmountable deficit — it was down 61-56 — but momentum was decidedly on Finland’s side. To that point, Finland had scored 16 of the game’s last 18 points.

The stakes were simple: Lose, in front of their home fans in Valencia, and Spain fails to qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time since 1996; win, and their Olympic hopes remain alive.

Just as the Spanish national team appeared to be teetering, it responded with pair of 3s from Alberto Diaz on consecutive possessions, then a Diaz steal that lead to a Dario Brizuela layup. Spain reclaimed the lead, Finland called timeout and, down the stretch, the host country held on. With an 81-74 win, Spain survived the scare and advanced the OQT finals. On Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET, Spain will face a loaded Bahamas team with a spot in the 2024 Olympics on the line.

Willy Hernangomez starred for Spain against Finland, scoring 28 points on 8-for-12 shooting and making 12 of his 15 free throw attempts. Santi Aldama and Lorenzo Brown added 15 points apiece, and Sergio Lull made a clutch 3 to break a tie.

Finland, who were without Lauri Markkanen in the tournament as the forward recovers from the shoulder injury he suffered in March, were led by Andre Gustavson’s 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting. Mikael Jantunen added 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists in the loss.

Spain will have less than 24 hours to prepare for their finals matchup with the Bahamas, who defeated Lebanon earlier Saturday. Deandre Ayton had 24 points on 11-for-15 shooting and 15 rebounds in that 89-72 victory, and Buddy Hield contributed 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting and 10 assists. V.J. Edgecombe, the 18-year-old rising star who will play for Baylor next season, added 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting, and the Bahamas won relatively comfortably. (Their lead shrunk to five early in the fourth and then, much like Spain, they regained control.)

With those three weapons, plus Eric Gordon spotting up behind the 3-point line and Golden State Warriors assistant coach Chris DeMarco on the sideline, this group won’t be an easy out. While Spain will be trying to avoid missing the Olympics for the first time in almost three decades, the Bahamas will be trying to qualify for the first time ever.

There are three more OQT finals matchups on Sunday, each with an Olympic berth up for grabs: 

  • In Riga, Latvia, the home country will play Brazil at 12 p.m. ET.
  • In Piraeus, Greece, the home country will play Croatia at 2 p.m. ET.
  • In San Juan, Puerto Rico, Lithuania will play host Puerto Rico at 6:00 p.m. ET 





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