|State Secretary of Sport of Andorra Jordi Cerqueda, FIBA Europe Vice-President John Goncalves, FIBA Europe President Olafur Rafnsson and the President of the Andorran Basketball Federation, Manuel Fernandez, at the Poliesportiu Sports Hall on the opening day of the championship|
Andorra and Cyprus stayed perfect in the Preliminary Round to be awarded a direct pass to the Semi-Final Round of the U16 European Championship Women, Division C.
Malta will face Gibraltar and Monaco will go up against Wales in the Qualifying Round on Thursday, in two winner-takes-all battles for the two remaining semi-final tickets.
Day 1 of the Preliminary Round was when both the hosts and Cyprus dealt the decisive blow to would-be challengers for the top spot in their respective groups.
In Group A, Andorra were only up 4-2 against Malta after five and a half minutes of action, but an impressive run orchestrated by guard Cristina Andres Rabasa resulted in them leading by 17, 21-4, at the first buzzer.
They followed the same path in the next two quarters and had effectively sealed the victory with 10 minutes to spare, 60-14 at the end of the third quarter.
Malta actually managed to decrease the difference a little in the final quarter but all was already decided and the hosts celebrated a 66-23 final win, behind a double-double (21 points, 14 rebounds) by center Claudia Guri Moreno.
In Group B, Cyprus did not have it so easy in their encounter with Monaco.
They held a fragile four-point gap in their favour at the end of the first quarter, and pulled away in the second to build what seemed to be a comfortable 16-point lead, 33-17 at halftime.
Monaco however attempted a comeback after the interval and threatened to bring down the difference, only for the islanders to hold off the attack and restore the 16-point gap in the end, 52-36.
Cyprus had Eleanna Christinaki on a fantastic day as she posted a double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead her side to victory.
On Day 2, Malta restored confidence after the defeat of the previous day, with a 64-26 routing of Wales in Group A action.
|Center Claudia Guri Moreno posted a double-double in points and rebounds to lead hosts Andorra to their first victory, against Malta|
The Maltese led from start to finish and got great performances by Maria Bonett and Julia Xerri, who scored 16 points each.
In Group B, Cyprus cruised to a 60-25 victory over Gibraltar, who only held the lead briefly after the early exchanges in the game.
The winners saw small forward Tijana Raca leading all scorers with 23 points and secured the top-spot of the group and the direct pass to the Semi-Final Round.
Day 3 started with a nail-biting thriller between Monaco and Gibraltar.
The Iberians were leading 11-9 after eight minutes of action but the Monegasques managed a late run to finish the first quarter up by three, 16-13.
The second quarter belonged entirely to Monaco and they deservedly walked into the locker room with a 12-point cushion at halftime, 33-21.
Gibraltar had not spoken their final word though. They came back after the interval and patiently started to chip away at the difference until they reduced it to one single point, 44-45, with seven minutes left on the clock.
Five consecutive points however gave Monaco some breathing space at that critical point and although Gibraltar managed to bring it then down to two, 48-50, they never took the lead.
Monaco held for a 53-48 win to clinch second place in Group B and play the third of Group A, Wales, in Thursday's Qualification Round decider.
Paloma Paje-Rius posted a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) for the winners and Emma Zeghdar followed suit with 13 points and 16 rebounds.
In the Group A game later on the same evening, the hosts never allowed Wales to hope for anything like such a dramatic encounter.
Andorra routed the Brits, 74-13, and triumphantly stamped their ticket to the Semi-Final Round to the delight of the local crowd.
They will face the winner of the Monaco vs. Wales game on Friday.