|Merve Aydin has grown ins stature for Turkey at this tournament. Now she needs to top it off with one more big performance|
Host nation Turkey and tournament surprise package Belarus will try their best to bounce back from tough semi-finals losses and win bronze on Sunday at the U20 European Championship Women.
Turkey had high expectations in front of home fans, but for the second year in a row, defeat against the defending champions Spain ended their hopes of going all the way. Nine players from this squad took part in the tournament last year in Debrecen, where they beat the Netherlands and won bronze.
They will try to use their experience to their favour, and with the support of the home fans that have been with them since the opening day, to finish the Championship on the podium.
For Belarus, it is an historic moment, as the country who, other than their 2003 silver at the U16 European Championship Women in Nevsehir, Turkey, have never claimed any other medals in Division A Youth tournaments.
Now, Belarus hope Turkey is their lucky charm again.
In Samsun, they have a 4-4 record, but timely wins against the Slovak Republic in the Second Round, and against heavily favoured France in the quarter-finals, sent them into medal contention.
In order to win, Belarus will need another big game from power forward Maryia Papova. She ruled in victory against France with 18 points and 14 rebounds, but in the semis against Italy scored only two points, and missed all three of her shots from the field. In addition to Papova, the likes of centers Hanna Kalenta and Maryna Ivashchanka, as well as the shooters Ksenija Voishal and Darya Lipinskaya, will need to step up in order to grab bronze.
They go up against the potent and aggressive backcourt of Turkey, led by playmaker Olcay Cakir. Guards Merve Aydin, Ayse Cora and Pelin Bilgic make big contributions offensively, but are capable of applying defensive pressure at all times.
With vocal help from the stands, Turkey should not have problems finding the energy that has fueled their team throughout the tournament, but Belarus proved during the competition it can compete, and beat, the best teams. With history and the bronze medal on the line, they will be highly motivated to come up with another upset.