by Björn-Lars Blank
As the U16 European Championship Women concludes various moments and impressions from the games at Kozani and Ptolemaida remain in the memory of the participants and spectators.
FIBA Europe takes a look at some of the most interesting stories of the 2010 edition of this tournament.
In Ptolemaida and Kozani, for the first time ever a Croatian national team could reach a final in a European Championship Women. Head coach Zeljko Ciglar was very proud of this achievement of his girls. "We already have a silver medal in our pockets. This feels like being on Mount Everest!"
Last year Croatia still played at the Division B in this age category. With the success they had Ciglar hopes that Women's basketball in Croatia will start getting bigger.
Having a great time:
The Netherlands are the second team that played at the lower level last year. In 2010 they reached the Quarter-Final Round of Division A. "I am very happy of course" Head Coach Joris Zandbergen said. "Our goal was to stay at this level and we reached this goal. We even made the Quarter-Finals."
He stresses the fact that the Dutch really had a good time. "To play here is such a great experience for the players. In this competition, every time a real game awaits you. That is very good for our national team programme. The people here in Greece were nice and the organization was good."
Being a coach:
Elena Shulzhenko knows what it's like to reach a U16 European Championship Women as a player. Now the Russian head coach experiences this feeling again from a different angle. "It is the first time I reach the final in this age category as a coach. I've been a champ at this level as a player and team captain. To coach is just so much more difficult than to be on the court and play." Shulzhenko said.
Overall Shulzhenko is impressed by the performances of the 16 teams in Ptolemaida and Kozani. "All teams at this tournament played very mature. They all showed high level basketball."
Improving step by step:
In their strong Preliminary Group, Serbia had a hard time to find their rhythm. They landed a key win over Italy that sent them to the Qualifying Round. That's where they picked it up a notch or two. They improved game by game and eventually advanced to the stage of the last four teams. "We came out of nowhere. Now we are in the Semi-Finals." Dragan Ognjenovic (Head Coach) said after the Serbs eliminated Turkey in the Quarter-Final.
Playing an U16 European Championship Women at home:
Host Greece almost reached the quarter-finals. In the end, they finished 10th. For Maria Papavasileiou, the tournament has been a very special experience. The shooting guard was born in Ptolemaida, one of the towns where the U16 European Championship Women takes place. Papavasileiou averaged 6.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in her "home games". With 2.0 steals per game she led the Greek team.
Seeing the daughter compete on a high level:
It surely must be a special feeling to see the own child compete for medals at a European Championship. In Ptolemaida and Kozani, fan groups of up to 50 people often supported their colours. Most of them were parents of the players.
They supported the girls on the court with huge enthusiasm and encouraged them all the way through the tournament. The only persons in the gym who actually had been more enthusiastic were the players who displayed a high level of basketball.