By Paul Nilsen
Turkey will head to the U17 World Championships next year after blowing out hosts Italy 71-50 as they gained compensation for their heart breaking and gut wrenching quadruple overtime loss against France in the quarter finals.
Coach Firat Okul was buoyant after claiming fifth spot and apologised as he broke away from the middle of his post game interview to join in with his players as they celebrated courtside.
|Ayse Cora stepped up for Turkey with 16 pts, 6 rbs and 4asts.|
When he returned, he spoke of Turkey having made history and the profile qualification for next years tournament would give to the team and to women's basketball.
"I am so happy for my players. We could not sleep after we lost the four periods of overtime against France. Nobody slept in the whole team."
"Everyone said that we could not come back but the players showed they can play whenever they are needed for Turkey."
"I can't believe we will now be going to the World Championships for the first time in our history."
"This will do so much to raise the profile of this team and or Turkey womens basketball and I am just so very happy for the players."
"You can really see what it means to them - especially after what happened against France."
While the final of the tournament was still hours away, there were some that felt this was a game of comparable importance due to the magnitude of the prize for the winners.
There was also the fact that the losers of this game would leave Naples with nothing. No medal and no place in next years World Championships. Even Russia and France at least had the comfort of having already secured their place for next year, even if they did go on to lose out on a bronze medal later in the day.
On another baking hot day, both teams looked jaded and almost happy to leave their defence at home and feel their way tentatively into the game. You could hardly blame the players, perhaps it was no co-incidence that the low energy levels were coming from two teams who suffered epic overtime defeats in the quarter finals.
It was Turkey that shaded the opening ten minutes at 19-8 before an Olcay Cakir three-pointer got Turkey going early in the second period as they opened up an opportunity to pile pressure on the hosts. It was one that they took in convincing fashion, holding the Italians to just three points in eight minutes as they went 31-21 ahead.
A triple from Sara Bocchetti with just over 90 seconds to go until the midway point of the game was hugely important to give hope for the second half as Italy headed off cout 35-26 behind and having played their worst twenty minutes of the tournament.
|Local hero Sara Bocchetti tried hard but could not avoid her team falling to Turkey|
Without their usual impressive intensity, good decision making and baskets in transition, Italy knew that it would be an uphill struggle. Perhaps they also knew that it was almost impossible to shoot the ball as poorly in the last two quarters.
They also had to stop the penetration and match the aggression of Ayse Cora and Pelin Bilgic who combined for 18 first half points for the Turkey team.
The penultimate quarter saw Italian woes compounded as they went scoreless for almost five minutes and watched Turkey extend their advantage. Once again Bilgic slicing to the hoop and scoring confidently off the glass.
At least a steal and score from Francesca Dotto broke the barren run of the home team and belief that they could step it up in the last fifteen minutes. Trailing 43-29, Alice Mandelli made a jump shot, forward Marta Masoni finally made a triple attempt and then Stella Panella got the crowd off their feet with a tough inside move.
The 7-1 run visibly gave Italy a lift but it was defensively they also needed to focus and that was proving a little more difficult. With 17 seconds left to go in the period, Turkey hit a real dagger shot as Özge Kavurmacioglu drained a triple from the corner to put her team 51-37 in front.
Once Turkey scored the first couple of baskets of the fourth quarter it looked all over for the hosts and so it proved as they finished in sixth spot to leave Naples empty handed although Coach Giovanni Lucchesi was not too disappointed.
"I am very sorry that we did not win this game because it was of course very important but my players had no energy or intensity left."
"When that happens to this team we are left with players going alone into one versus five and this is never good."
"I feel that I know my players very well and whatever the experts try to say, I feel that we have reached the level I expected and so I am not too disappointed."
"Maybe with Formica not being injured there was a possibility of going to the semi-finals but we will never know and it is not an excuse."
"I think that we have only truly lost one game and that was Turkey beating u today. All of our games have been very close and that shows we are only a little bit of quality from reaching the next level."