If anyone had any doubts about Russia’s abilities after they lost twice in the Group games, they were quickly dispelled after their Quarter-Final performance this afternoon. Despite 35 minutes of intense pressure from Poland, the Russians slowly but surely broke the Polish spirit ontheir way to a 72-57 win. At times the Russians completely dominated inside, out-rebounding Poland 52-23, and taking only 4 offensive rebounds less that the Polish total.
Marina Karpunina opened the scoring for Russia with a big 3 and Poalnd quickly replied and for the next couple of minutes all points were from either behind the arc or from the free-throw line. The Poles really hustled and caused disconcertation amongst the Russian players whose communication on court was not good and coach Voronova was forced to take a time-out.
The Polish scoring dried up and Paulina Pawlak was the only player for Poland looking to go to the hoop. At the other end Karpunina and Liudmila Sapova led the Russians, however, Sapova soon picked up her second foul and went off. The Poles then put on a tight press which was to shake the Russians for the remainder of the game. Russia were very inconsistent against the press – they either passed through it with ease and scored or got completely tied up and lost the ball. The first quarter ended with the Russians up 7, 28-21.
Sapova was back on in the second period and immediately attacked, drawing a foul and shooting ½. The Russian free-throw percentage was poor today and they would have been up by far more at half time had they put more away. The Poles were already on team fouls with 6 minutes to go, compared to 0 from Russia, but the Russians didn’t take advantage of this as they should have. Tatiana Bokareva did a good job for the Russian team ion the second, picking up a lot of rebounds and very mobile and effective againsat the press.
By half-way through the second period the Russians were already up by 10, 36-26 and with the Poles easing off on the pressure for a couple of minutes, they really stepped up the offence, running the fast-break and getting some easy baskets. Katarzyna Krezel hit a 3-pointer at the end of the half, the first Polish points in 4 minutes and kept the margin under 20 going into the locker room. The half ended 49-30.
The Polish side were far more fired up after the break and caused a couple of shaky minutes for the Russian team. Russia were still shooting around 50% from the free-throw line and Poland shot 3 3-pointers in a row (2 from Krezel and 1 from Izabela Piekarska) to pull the score back to 9. Elena Danilotchkina then hit a massive 3 which was enough to put an end to the Polish run and allow her teammates to get over their short fright. Poland started looking tired and really had no chance under the boards against the trio of Bokareva, Anastassia Lobanova and Maria Nikitina. With little over a minute to go in the quarter Russia again had a 21 point lead, 72-59.
Poland continued to press in the 4th quarter but it was of little use. Russia again had a short period where they couldn’t score, but Svetlana Makhlina, who today had a very solid game, taking care of the ball and handling the pressure very well, shot another 3-pointer to lift her team once more. The rest of the game was all Russia and with 5 minutes left, much of the fight had been knocked out of the Poles. They kept hustling but the intensity was lost. Russia went on to win 92-74 and advance to the Semis.