|30 July 2004|
The Slovaks very nearly pulled off the first upset of the Quarter-Finals by surprising their Czech cousins and making them fight for every basket right into the final minutes. The Czechs finished first in Group B and the Slovaks 4th in Group A, but the Slovak Rep. players were in no way intimidated and came out ready to give everything.
To be fair, the Czechs looked nothing like the team that cruised through the Preliminary Round, losing only once to Hungary, but winning every other game by an average of 15 points. They struggled through the first quarter and only Jitka Musilova kept them going, scoring 10 points in the first 10 minutes. Despite very poor shooting from outside, the Slovaks‘ hustle and aggressive defence paid off and they finished the quarter 16-16.
The second period saw very little in improvement for the Czech side – they looked tired and turned the ball over, which the Slovaks turned to their advantage, running the fast-break and scoring at the other end. With help from Silvia Kloudova, who poured in 10 points in 7 minutes the Slovak team broke away and held a 10 point lead with 2 minutes to play. But the Czechs weren’t about to let their heads hang and certainly weren’t going to allow their neighbours such a lead at half-time. They clawed their way back and right on the buzzer took the lead awaay from the Slovaks and went ahead 36-35 after 20 minutes.
For 17 minutes in the second half, this game went end-to-end. The Slovaks went ahead twice, only for the Czech side to pull back again and again, Blanka Sedlakova hitting a couple of huge 3s at the end of 24 seconds to keep her team running.
By mid-way through the 4th quarter it was the Slovaks tuzrn to look tired however and they missed several unlucky shots, whereas for the Czechs everything was falling. The Slovaks took a couple of bad decisions in offence, resulting in turnovers and suddenly the Czech Republic was 5 points ahead.
The Slovaks wouldn’t give up though, and Zuzana Serbakova hit a 3 to bring the game back within reach. She then got a great steal at the other end but unfortunately Luisa Michulkova twice was unable to convert. The Czech team used the last minute to run the clock down and Musilova hit a final 3 with 7 seconds to go to seal the victory.
The Czechs go on to face Russia in the first Semi-Final tomorrow.