|Yurena Diaz had a game-high 16 points for Spain in their gold medal victory|
Turning Point: After trailing for the entire first half, Spain held Italy to no points for more than eight minutes to start the second half, subsequently tracing their path to victory.
Game Hero: In the key third quarter, Itziar Llobet sunk two three-pointers in a span of 90 seconds during Spain's 20-3 spurt that lifted them to 45-31 lead.
Stats Don't Lie: Spain's ferocious defence did not allow Italy many open looks in the third quarter, holding them to 0-for-16 in field-goal shooting.
Spain claimed their third consecutive gold medal at the U20 European Championship Women, defeating Italy 59-53 in a highly entertaining title game on Sunday night in Samsun.
To get the unprecedented three-peat, Spain had to recover after a slow start that had them down by eight points in the early going, and trailing at halftime for only the second time in the entire tournament.
But they stepped up on defence after the break, leaving Italy scoreless for more than eight minutes at the start of the third quarter, and leaving their opponents without a single second-half field goal until a minute-and-a-half had already passed in the fourth quarter.
It helped Spain build an insurmountable 57-38 lead, and they comfortably closed out the title game.
Doing what they do best - play defence and run the fast break - Italy opened the title game with an 8-0 lead.
After a timeout, Spain settled in. Astou Ndour put Spain on the scoreboard, and Paula Estebas nailed a triple as they scored seven unanswered points. But Italy remained in front with consecutive triples from Francesca Dotto and Ilaria Milazzo, to hold an 18-11 lead after 10 minutes.
Italy forced nine turnovers in the first quarter, and there was no drop-off in the intensity of their defence in the second either.
Spain took better care of the ball, however, and closed the gap as Elena De Alfredo connected on a jumper and Yurena Diaz sunk a triple.
They also hoped zone defence would disrupt the rhythm of the Italians, but Caterina Dotto and Elisa Penna kept Italy's lead at seven points, before Ndour made a basket-plus-free throw, cutting it to 28-25 at halftime.
The beginning of the second half was almost a copy of the first, but with roles reversed. Diaz hit a triple to tie the score at 28, but that was the only basket in the first five minutes of the third stanza.
What happened next was Spain's run for gold.
An "And-1" from Inmaculada Zanoguera got the Spanish going, before a driving layup from Diaz and a triple from Itziar Llobet gave them a 37-28 advantage.
Italy could not finish their fast breaks, and began missing their free throws. Another triple from Llobet, and one from Estebas just before the buzzer, put Spain up 45-31 going into the fourth quarter.
Formica finally snapped Italy's 11-minute field goal drought a minute into the fourth quarter, but another triple from Estebas made it 50-33. The lead soon reached 19 points, before Italy closed the gap in the final minutes.
Diaz led Spain with 16 points, Estebas finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, and Llobet also scored 10. The tournament MVP Ndour grabbed 17 rebounds, but scored all of her seven points in the first half.
Francesca Dotto led Italy with 14 points, while Caterina Dotto and Penna had 10 apiece. Alessandra Formica had eight points and 10 rebounds in defeat.