Russia completely outplayed France this evening to take the title of the Eural Trans Gas European Championship for U20 Women 2004. They were clearly the stronger of the two teams and simply played in a different class from their hosts. Once they established a lead they held onto it for the remainder of the game, their solid defence impervious to any French attack.Nonetheless, France never gave up, and despite poor shooting (34% and 12% 3-pointers) tried their very best, in vain, to get back into the game.
|Amelie Pochet (#10, FRA) and Maria Nikitina (#11, RUS)|
The Russian zone has caused problems for all teams here at this competition and France got a taste of it in the Preliminary Round. In the Group game, decent outside shooting saved France and they were able to grab a 1-point win, but this evening the Russians stepped up the “D“ to another level and France weren’t even getting a look at the basket from outside. In the paint they turned the ball over again and again as the zone collapsed and the Russians got a hand to the ball almost evey time.
For once Russia didn’t win on rebounds as the home team made a concerted effort to box them out and keep them off the boards. Nevertheless, the Russians were more effective when they got the ball and any offensive rebounds were put in the hoop.
Both teams seemed nervous at first and the first quarter saw very little in the way on points on the scoreboard. Elodie Godin (16 pts, 13 rebounds) connected first after 2 ½ minutes, putting away 2 free-throws. Russia were quick to reply as Tatiana Papova (13 pts, 4 rebounds) hit a lovely baseline jumper. France tried penetrating the zone, but with Marina Kuzina (3 blocks) and Tatiana Bokareva (13 points, 3 assists) guarding their basket, France had little chance. At the other end Russia’s drives to the hoop were more successful and by the end of the first quarter they were ahead 16:10.
|Elena Danilotchkina (#13, Rus)|
The second period was the decider: the Russian zone was like a wall – there was no going round it, through it and the French certainly weren’t shooting over it. Godin kept trying her best but by midway through the quarter the Russians were dominating the entire game. France’s defence started to break down and Liudmila Sapova (14 pts, 3 steals) was able to score on a couple of sweet drives and moves. The margin grew to 30:16.
With 3 minutes left in the half the French tried to be more aggressive on defence and with a 3-pointer from Julie Legoupil reduced the gap to 10, 32:22. In the last minute, though Russia still could score another 5 points, Bokareva picking up a lovely steal under her own basket to put in for another two. Half-time score 37:22.
With the noisy 1500 crowd behind them, the home team made an offensive and defensive push coming out after the break. Paoline Salagnac (17pts, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) led the attack and for most of the second half seemed to be the only French player on court. Russia looked a little shaken at first by the new-found French energy but a great drive from Svetlana Makhlina broke the run. Amélie Pochet tried to shoot a baseline jumper on the buzzer to narrow the gap to 7 at the end of 30 minutes but her shot met with an enormous block from Sapova.
France kept on trying to come back in the final minutes but their attempts were simply held off by the Russian defence. Russia took full advantage of any French mistakes and even when Marina Karpunina and Anastassia Lobanova went off, both with 5 fouls, there were no more opportunities for France. Russia took the deserved win and the Championship trophy.
|the French team|