28 June, 2014
06 July
Iris JUNIO (Spain)
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FIBA U17W - Spanish ace Junio eyes Semi-Final success

PILSEN (FIBA U17 World Championship for Women) - Spanish ace Iris Junio has her eye on making Sunday's Final of the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women and is ready to handle the intensity of playing Czech Republic in front of what promises to be another partisan home crowd.

The first of Saturday's two Semi-Final games pitches Junio and her team-mates against the hosts in a repeat of last year's U16 European Championship Women final, which Spain won by five points.

Junio is also relieved to have got past France in the Quarter-Finals, having been pushed particularly hard during the opening-half.

"We are really satisfied with the outcome of a game in which we had to be as close-knit as ever to make us victorious," reflected the guard.

"France have been one of the best teams in the tournament and they demonstrated this on the court with a very physical game that forced us to give an added intensity.

"We are very excited to be able to now possibly make it to the Final and we will try to have the best possible game against a team that will have the support of their fans.

"It will not be easy, but we will give ourselves the best chance to win and then fight for the gold medal."

Spain head coach Victor Lapena is also thrilled to have seen the back of France and is eager for his players to continue in the same vein, having now extended their impressive unbeaten streak to five games.

"During the pre-game (against France) we talked a lot about the right mind-set," he revealed.

"Experience told us that France is a team that tries to impose their game on you and our response as a team was excellent.

"We had a great performance in defence which allowed us to initiate counter-attacks, especially early in the third period when we played some of our best moments of the championship so far.

"We  expect a very tough game against Czech Republic who are not in the Semi-Finals by chance.

"They are the hosts and that gives them a slight dose of favouritism, but the key for us will be not to deviate from the path that has brought us this far."

In the other Semi-Final, the USA will tussle with Hungary, meaning the top three European teams from the 2013 U16 European Championship for Women will finish in the top four in Pilsen, along with the defending champions.

USA head coach Sue Phillips is acutely aware that Hungary will provide a threat to her team, but is also thrilled with the way some of her players are now beginning to hit top gear - including forward Joyner Holmes who was outstanding against Canada in the Quarter-Finals with 24 points.

"Joyner was amazing. She came off the bench for us and produced those kind of numbers in 17 minutes - she is such a high-energy player," she said.

"The team feeds off her ability to go and get rebounds. She is relentless on the glass and she has got unbelievable hands.

"At times she plays at a different atmosphere to some of the players and I'm grateful that she is in red, white and blue.

"Hungary are a really good team and we will definitely have our hands full," added Phillips.

Both Semi-Final games are available to watch for free (registration required; no purchase necessary) on LiveBasketball.tv.