|Albina Razheva came close to a double-double with 10 points and 8 rebounds|
by Björn-Lars Blank
In the opening game of Group A, Russia beat Finland 80-53. Russia controlled the rebounds as well as the paint which helped them to secure their first victory in this year's U16 European Championship Women.
Alexandra Marchenkova collected a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds, Albina Razheva and Julia Gladkova contributed 10 points each. For Finland, who played a good first quarter but struggled offensively in the following quarters, Emmi Leino led all scorers with 13 points.
"We had to deal with nervousness. Official games like this are always different from preparation games. We wanted to develop a fast paced game. There are a few moments in the game where I really liked the way the players performed. The advantage in rebounding was big for us. In the second half we also found our shots from outside." Head Coach Elena Shulzhenko said after the game.
Her team was able to collect 56 rebounds (compared to that, Finland only grabbed 41 rebounds).
"We tried to involve all the players because it is a long tournament. This is a friendly squad. Their spirit will help them in this tournament."
However, it was Finland who got the better start in this opening game. With a three pointer by Elisa Runsas the Finns took the early lead (7-4) and were able to increase it up to 18-9. The Russians worked their way back into the game. With five consecutive points in the last minute of the first quarter they cut the deficit down to three points.
In the second quarter the Russian squad continued their rally and scored another ten unanswered points to take the lead (20-27). Offensively, Finland struggled all the way through the second quarter but kept their fighting spirit. A spectacular lay-up from Anni Jämsä closed out the first half (27-35).
After the break both teams kept up the high intensity. However, the Russians performed more consistent on the offensive end. Especially Alexandra Marchenkova and Albina Razheva provided a big boost. After three quarters, Marchenkova already collected 12 points and 13 rebounds.
In the final quarter Russia put away the game, increasing the lead from 13 points after 30 minutes up to 71-46 with three minutes left to go. Relentless in using their advantage underneath the baskets, Russia rolled to a commanding opening victory.