(Photo FEB) Early January took place in Valladolid, Spain, the 35th edition of the Spanish National Championship of Autonomous Communities: “Campeonato de Baloncesto de Selecciones Autonomicas”, that gathered during 5 days some 76 teams representing Spain’s 19 autonomous communities in 4 different age categories: U13-U14 girls (“Infantil Femenino”), U13-U14 boys (“Infantil Masculino”), U15-U16 girls (“Cadete Femenino”), U15-U16 boys (“Cadete Masculino”). Altogether over 900 players for a total of 126 games in 8 different venues. Each age category was structured in 2 divisions (“Especial” and “Preferente”) very much like FIBA’s competitions where exist different divisions per age category. Here “Especial” stands for Division A and “Preferente” for Division B . The teams finishing 9th & 10th in “Especial” are relegated the next year to “Preferente” while the 2 tops teams from “Preferente” earn a promotion to the top division the following year. The two higher ranked teams of each “Especial” group qualify for the semi-finals and battle for the National Champion title. (U13-U14 players are born in 2004 and 2005. Unless specified otherwise, players quoted in the following below are 2004-born)
The yearly event, taking place during holiday season in Spain right before the “Three Kings Day” (Wise Men), was a big celebration for FEB, Federacion Espanola de Baloncesto: Spain’s national basketball federation. Everyone involved with youth development in the country was present, the goal being to allow as many people as possible, who don’t necessarily meet during the year, to meet. In order to do so, the organizers decided to mix age categories and genders in each venue. While this was very efficient from a community-bonding point of view, it made the task of following the championship a bit more complex, especially without any sort of transport system between venues. All games from one division were played at the same time in 4 different locations, mostly very distant from one another. Nevertheless plenty of action was still to be enjoyed live and the numerous fans, supporters and family members present to cheer the players made each game unique and thrilling. Passion level was high both on court and in the stands, perfect setting for a great week of action.
Síguela en #CanalFEB
— SeBaloncesto – FEB (@baloncestofeb) January 7, 2018
The “Infantil Femenino Especial” category as mentioned had 10 teams divided in 2 groups. Last year’s podium went as followed: Andalucia #1, Cataluña #2 and Comunidad Valenciana #3. Group A was composed of Comunidad de Madrid, Cataluña, Comunidad Valenciana, Galicia & Navarra, while Group B had Andalucia, Islas Canarias, Islas Baleares, Aragon & Extremadura.
First day of action in group A made it clear that Navarra would not compete for the silverware after suffering two major 50pts routs against Cataluña and Comunidad Valenciana with G/SF Alejandra Civera (17mpg-5,7ppg-36%FG2-19.2%FG3-50%FT-6,3rpg-1,3spg-1,7topg) and PG Marina Asensio (24,5mpg-13,3ppg-39.5%FG2-26.8%FG3-81.2%FT-2,8rpg-2,8apg-1spg-2,3topg) for the former and Cristina Ugochukwu (22,2mpg-10,2ppg-48.9%FG2-71.4%FT-8,3rpg-1apg-2,5spg-1,7topg) for the latter already making statements. An undersized Galicia led by guard Clara Prieto (26,8mpg-12,8ppg-40.4%FG2-18.2%FG3-80%FT-6,8rpg-1,8apg-2,6spg-4,4topg) and small forward Alejandra Castaño (22,4mpg-7,4ppg-32.5%FG2-28.6%FG3-55,6%FT-4.8rpg-2,2spg) offered better resitance but equally lost its first two games. It was therefore clear that the battle for the 2 top spots would see Cataluña, Comunidad de Madrid and Comunidad Valenciana go at it, leaving inevitably one of those title hopefuls disappointed.
Cataluña eased its way to the semi-finals in the following games after seeing off in very close and undecise games both of its direct rivals (+3 vs. C.Valenciana and +6 vs C.Madrid), thus finishing top-ranked and unbeaten. To the aforementionned Alejandra Civera, a very promising, athletic, mobile, smart SF with nice size, good sense of anticipation and strong defensive skills, and Marina Asensio, a very mature, reliable, cold-blooded, courtsmart PG, Cataluña could count on quite a deep roster, the deepest of all teams. SG/SF Lucia Navarro, daughter of Spanish basketball legend, 2006 World Champion, triple Olympic medallist Juan-Carlos Navarro, showed some fine shooting capacities at times herself (18,7mpg-6ppg-58.3%FG2-25%FG3-40%FT-1,5rpg-1,7apg-1,2spg), back-up PG Deva Bermejo (18,8mpg-11,2ppg-53.3%FG2-27.3%FG3-66.7%FT-3,5rpg-1,3apg-3,2spg-2,7topg) was very influential coming off the bench and the promising Joana Reid (15mpg-7,1ppg-60%FG2-38.9%FT-4,7rpg-1,5topg) provided them at the PF position with some nice athleticism and a solid frame perfect for rebounding.
So it was all left to the very last game of group phase between Comunidad de Madrid and Comunidad Valenciana to determine who would advance to the tournament’s Final 4 and who would have to settle for 5th spot battle at the most. Comunidad de Madrid had played and lost a very engaged and tough game in the very same morning versus Cataluña while Comunidad Valenciana was off. The question whether this played a big part or not in Madrid’s surprise loss, and even rout, will never be answered, what is for sure is that Comunidad de Madrid lasted only one quarter in that crucial match-up and after scoring 18 first quarter points went on to score only 22 in the next 3 quarters and eventually lose by 37pts! The tournament had just lost one of its better teams, the one with the most diverse and complete looking roster with tall and versatile players, unlike most other teams that were mostly guards-led. The frontcourt duo of 2005-born PF sensation Habtenesh Maryam Calvo (30,4mpg-10,4ppg-41.4%FG2-0%FG3-44.4%FT-10,4rpg-1,2apg-2,8spg-3topg) and Ana Picos (20,6mpg-9,6ppg-40.3%FG2-50%FT-9,4rpg-2,2spg-1,4topg), as well as PG Alejandra Zuñiga (23mpg-6,6ppg-46.1%FG2-28.6%FG3-30%FT-5,2rpg-3,2apg-2,6spg-3,6topg) or SF Paloma Simon del Corral (21,2mpg-5,4ppg-27.6%FG2-15.8%FG3-33.3%FT-2,4rpg-1,2spg-2,6topg) had to settle for 5th spot battle only. On the Comunidad Valenciana side Cristina Ugochukwu’s continuous effort was backed-up by some solid contributions coming from SF Marta Moya (30mpg-11,2ppg-42.6%FG2-34.6%FT-8,8rpg-1,5apg-2spg-2,5topg), SF Marina Bleda (21mpg-9ppg-57.1%FG2-12.5%FG3-77.8%FT-2,5rpg-0,5apg-2,3spg-2,8topg), as well as from fatigue-free pocket-size big-hearted lefty PG Lucia Rodriguez (31,2mpg-9ppg-37.5%FG2-28.6%FG3-66.7%FT-2rpg-3,7apg-2,3spg-4topg). Cataluña and Comunidad Valenciana booked their semi-finals ticket, Comunidad de Madrid would battle for 5th spot, Galicia for 7th spot and Navarra, very understandably, suffered relegation to “Preferente” division without winning a game.
We're not sleeping early in 2018! We are identifying the @FIBA stars of tomorrow even when multiple tournaments taking place. Our man @pierrepiotr_ is back in Espana 🇪🇸 for us looking at U13/14 who we look forward to covering in the next decade and beyond! pic.twitter.com/rCqqeVeSSL
— BlueStar Media (@BlueStarMedia1) January 4, 2018
In group B, Islas Canarias took the hot start winning both of its first day games and looking confidently onto Day 2 with a 2-0 record. They could rely on the tournament’s leading scorer-to-be SF/PF Elena Buenavida (26,2mpg-20ppg-50%FG2-18.2%FG3-58.1%FT-9,5rpg-2,7apg-4,7spg-3,5topg), a very mature and efficient player whose physicality provided a strong advantage but nothing guarantees this advantage will follow her as she moves into further age categories. Unless she develops other skills., she might reach a plateau very soon. A trio of other Canarians displayed some very interesting skills, for instance backcourt duo PG Carmen Yanez (32,8mpg-9,7ppg-36.9%FG2-21.7%FG3-50%FT-3,2rpg-2,3apg-1,7spg-3topg) and athletic lefty G Elena Guerra (19,5mpg-6,7ppg-45.8%FG2-53.8%FG3-27.3%FT-2,5rpg-1,2apg-1,7spg-2,5topg), the former showcased fully her dribbling skills and her passing abilities while the latter impressed with her hard-nosed approach, her high basketball IQ and some great footwork, finally SF Dominique Garcia Blackwood (24mpg-7,8ppg-41%FG2-12.5%FG3-54.5%FT-7,3rpg-2spg-1topg) offers already an interesting impact but looks like she has much more to offer in the future.
Islas Canarias’ 2-0 record coming into Day 2 is something Andalucia leveled at the end of the same Day 2 when they inflicted their first defeat of the tournament to Canarias, having them move to 2-1. It happened in dramatic fashion as Andalucia won by the smallest margin and with Islas Canarias having the last possession to potentially end on the victorious side themselves. Both team would eventually top the group and qualify for the semi-finals. Group B was less uneven than group A was with Navarra and Galicia. Islas Baleares, Extremadura and Aragon competed solidely always losing by around 10pts difference maximum, besides this one rout of Aragon by Andalucia by 48pts! Out of the Islas Baleares roster four players stood out: Andrea Peregrina (24,7mpg-9,2ppg-47%FG2-41.7%FG3-85.7%FT-1,7rpg-1,5apg-2spg-4,7topg), athletic and quick G Carmen Rigo (23,7mpg-9,7ppg-44%FG2-26.7%FG3-62.5%FT-4,7rpg-2,2apg-3,5spg-4topg), promising all-round smart SF Nuria Tugores (23,2mpg-5,5ppg-42.8%FG2-10%FG3-33.3%FT-3,5rpg-2spg-2topg) and the very interesting SF profile of Jenifer Ballester (18,7mpg-8,2ppg-41.7%FG2-23%FT-9,5rpg-0,7apg-1,5spg-2topg) who is very athletic, yet raw, and shows already good signs of both great composure and excellent footwork.
Aragon finished winless and suffered relegation to “Preferente” despite some interesting outings by 2005-born Carlota Lazaro (18,7mpg-5,5ppg-30%FG2-30%FG3-70%FT-3,5rpg-0,7apg-1spg-1,7topg), SF Ixeya Blasco (22,2mpg-9,5ppg-33.3%FG2-58.8%FT-3,5rpg-2spg-4,7topg) who looks like a player who could impact in the future, and the promising, also 2005-born, center Ariadna Termis (23,2mpg-8,2ppg-40.7%FG2-14.3%FG3-62.5%FT-10,2rpg-2apg-1,2topg) whose size and overall good attitude on court bode well for the future too.
Andalucia finished unbeaten in group B led by the very talented and all-round quality of G Gemma Nuñez (23,2mpg-9ppg-40%FG2-10%FG3-53.3%FT-4,5rpg-1,8apg-2,5spg-2,3topg) who is a real offensive force thanks to some strong ball-handling, great footwork and above all a great feel for the game, reminding me at times of another fellow Spanish youth stand-out: 2001-born Helena Pueyo. She certainly needs to improve her weak hand still but her drives and her spin moves are really something! She could count on several other teammates to back her efforts and provide impact such as PG/SG Maria Baldomero (19mpg-11ppg-38.4%FG2-30.5%FG3-25%FT-2rpg-1,3apg-2spg-2,2topg) whose odd shooting form doesn’t prevent the ball from connecting, back-up PG Andrea Gutierrez (25,5mpg-7,7ppg-47,2%FG2-15%FG3-27.3%FT-5,5rpg-2,2apg-3,2spg-2topg) and her great court vision and passing ability, guard Carmen Ruiz (23,2mpg-7,2ppg-45%FG2-15.2%FG3-50%FT-2,3rpg-1apg-1,7spg-2,7topg) or the frontcourt duo of Celia Garcia-Creus (20,7mpg-5,3ppg-31.7%FG2-100%FT-8,7rpb-1,7spg-1topg) and promising Alejandra Lineares (12,2mpg-4,2ppg-31.8%FG2-33.3%FG3-50%FT-4,8rpg), not to forget 2005-born Rocio Ramirez (14,3mpg-6,8ppg-31.4%FG2-33.3%FG3-50%FT-1,7rpg-1,7spg-0,83topg).
Partits d’avui de #CatalunyaBQ a #KDTINF2018
⏱ 13:30 h. Semifinal Infantil Femenina Vs @FCBaloncesto
⏱ 19:30 h. 5º i 6º lloc Cadet Masculina Vs @FabasketAragon
⏱ 17:30 h. Semifinal Cadet Femenina Vs @FAB_Andaluza
⏱ 19:30 h. Semifinal Infantil Masculina Vs @FCBaloncesto pic.twitter.com/wU6wvwfJW6
— FCBQtècnic (@FCBQtecnic) January 6, 2018
The semi-finals pairings were as followed: Cataluña – Islas Canarias / Andalucia – Comunidad Valenciana
Cataluña used their deeper roster, fresher players and an amazing FG3 % in the second half to outpower Islas Canarias in the last 5minutes of a game that was much closer than what the score could indicate at first, both teams being still tied at the end of Q3. The trio of Deva Bermejo, Lucia Navarro and Marina Asensio proved unstoppable, erupting for a combined 48pts. In the other semi-final, Comunidad Valenciana had the game under control until the end of the Q3, still leadinb by 2pts but couldnt resist Andalucia’s defensive pressure and started to panic. The loud cheers by the numerous and extatic Andalusian finished to add overwhelming pressure on the Valencia players. They lost Q4 12-24 saying goodbye to their title hopes. Gemma Nunez, Andrea Gutierrez and Maria Baldomero did the damage combining for 34pts for Andalucia.
In the battle for 3rd place, Islas Canarias defeated Comunidad Valenciana and completed the podium.
The final was the best game of the whole tournament by far. Intense, fluid and tight. The score was still 55-54 for Cataluña with only 5 minutes to play in Q4. But a late 7-0 run helped Cataluña reclaim the title they have won now an incredible 23 times out of 35 editions. Marina Asensio, Alejandra Civera and Joana Reid combined for 38pts out of 68 possible. On the Andalucia side Maria Baldemoro was on fire converting 4 of her 5 FG3 attempts for 17pts total, backed perfectly by the 14pts of Carmen Ruiz and the 11pts by Andrea Gutierrez.
So the outcome of this year’s edition meant revenge for Cataluña as they reclaimed their title and became champion defeating Andalucia in the final game. Islas Canarias finished 3rd and Comunidad Valenciana closed the top quartet. Madrid after the huge disapointment of not reaching the last 4 managed to see off Islas Baleares to get the #5 spot.
Below, the 2018 Spain U13-U14 National Champions: Cataluña!
— SeBaloncesto – FEB (@baloncestofeb) January 7, 2018
Overall the tournament displayed very good quality basketball for players of such a young age. The final game in that matter was absolutely a treat to watch. The intensity, the passion, the determination, the skills were in full mode, not mentionning the cheering crowd. Simply great! As expected with Spain, the quality and talent of their guards is amazing. The footwork, the dribbling skills, the court vision, they seem to have an endless talent pool at disposal, generation after generation. This explains the high tempo usually to be seen in Spanish basketball. The players do not hesitate and will always take the open shot or go for the drive if the situation, and sometimes even if it doesn’t, allows! Mix this to a culture of intense defense, and you end up with a type of basketball that can appear wild at times but that certainly keeps you alert and entertained all the time. The perspective of this generation to benefit from some taller and stronger players, like for instance some of Madrid’s will only add weapons to the Spanish established type of play.
At the end of the tournament FEB’s women’s National Teams Supervisor and former senior NT coach, coach José Ignacio Hernandez appeared very pleased by the level displayed during the event and commented this in conclusion: “I had been told the 2004-2005 generation wasn’t necessarily promising, but I have to say this was very good basketball here. Our detection process continues. This the 3rd time in the last couple of years we see these girls with their regional selections. We will see them grow again in the next two years and keep working with them. Madrid, that unfortunately didn’t qualify for the Final 4, is a good team with interesting post players as well. These are good signs for Spanish women’s basketball.”
Our man @pierrepiotr_ in Valladolid for this youth tournament with the hugely successful and respected Spanish 🇪🇸 play-caller @Joseihf – reigning #FIBAU20Europe gold 🎖️winning coach! Legend! 🏀 pic.twitter.com/oaCSqxebH2
— BlueStar Media (@BlueStarMedia1) January 7, 2018
Galicia 62 – Comunidad Valenciana 74
Navarra 21 – Cataluña 71
Comunidad Valenciana 73 – Navarra 23
Comunidad de Madrid 57 – Galicia 40
Navarra 40 – Comunidad de Madrid 55
Cataluña 63 – Comunidad Valenciana 60
Comunidad de Madrid 56 – Cataluña 62
Galicia 52 – Navarra 46
Cataluña 83 – Galicia 47
Comunidad Valenciana 77 – Comunidad de Madrid 40
1/ Cataluña 4-0
2/ Comunidad Valenciana 3-1
3/ Comunidad de Madrid 2-2
4/ Galicia 1-3
5/ Navarra 0-4
Islas Baleares 62 – Islas Canarias 75
Extremadura 41 – Andalucia 66
Islas Canarias 77 – Extremadura 57
Aragon 53 – Islas Baleares 65
Extremadura 65 – Aragon 52
Andalucia 55 – Islas Canarias 54
Aragon 40 – Andalucia 88
Islas Baleares 77 – Extremadura 65
Andalucia 72 – Islas Baleares 45
Islas Canarias 60 – Aragon 51
1/ Andalucia 4-0
2/ Islas Canarias 3-1
3/ Islas Baleares 2-2
4/ Extremadura 1-3
5/ Aragon 0-4
Cataluña 71 – Islas Canarias 53
Comunidad Valenciana 50 – Andalucia 60
Islas Canarias 79 – Comunidad Valenciana 66
Cataluña 68 – Andalucia 58
3/ Islas Canarias
4/ Comunidad Valenciana
5/ Comunidad de Madrid
6/ Islas Baleares
9/ Aragon (relegated)
10/ Navarra (relegated)
(+ Pais Vasco and Castilla y Leon are the 2 teams promoted to “Especial” division)
Top 5 Team Stats
- Cataluña: 69,7ppg-37.9%FG-44.6%FG2-26.8%FG3-50%FT-41,8rpg-12apg-14,8spg-16,1topg
- Andalucia: 66,5ppg-31.1%FG-36.9%FG2-19.9%FG3-44.6%FT-44,8rpg-9,3apg-19,5spg-16topg
- Islas Canarias: 66,3ppg-36.3%FG-39.4%FG2-24.4%FG3-53.2%FT-45,8rpg-13,5apg-13,6spg-19,3topg
- Comunidad Valenciana: 66,7ppg-36.3%FG-42.6%FG2-18.1%FG3-58.6%FT-42,3rpg-12apg-15,2spg-18,7topg
- Comunidad de Madrid: 56,8ppg-32.2%FG-36.3%FG2-16.9%FG3-46%FT-48,2rpg-10,4apg-19,6spg-26,2topg