Russia Champions!

20.07.2008

Olga Petrova scored 21 points to lead Russia to their fourth title at the U20 European Championship for Women, holding off France 67-58 in Pescara.

Russia used an 8-0 surge in the fourth quarter to put the game away by opening a 14-point advantage. Olga Zhuzgova added 10 points off the bench as tournament MVP Natalia Vieru struggled with foul trouble.

Olga Petrova (Russia)
Olga Petrova was outstanding in the final

Alexander Kovalev's Russians added the 2008 crown to their titles from 2000, 2004 and 2006.

"What an amazing tournament. Eight games, eight victories. This team is the very best. We played excellent defense and it is the reason we are champions," said coach Kovalev.

Petrova added: "We're champions! It was a long way to first place. And we prepared hard for each game. But we won and we're the best."

France made just 3-of-17 shots from three-point range as Abdou Ndiaye's failed to get back into the contest. Marielle Amant paced the French with 15 points while Ingrid Tanqueray had 12 points.

"We had a big problem getting into the game and did not really defend well today. They were a great team but we deserved to win too. But congratulations to the Russians," said French guard Carine Paul, who ended with nine points.

France started the final working hard on defense but Russia moved the ball well and Elena Pavlova, Petrova and Daria Ezhova all drained balls from beyond the arc in opening a 13-8 lead after six minutes. The Russians continued their excellent defense and Katerina Keyru's lay-up made it 17-10 after one period.

Two more France turnovers allowed Keyru and Natalia Zhedik to knock down three-pointers as the lead swelled to 23-12 in the early stages of the second period. It was 28-16 after Yulia Lukina's three-point play.

Ndiaye's team, however, re-focused their attention on defense and got back into the game. Russia failed to score on six straight possessions and were whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul as France reeled of a 13-0 run to pull ahead 29-28 on the strength of Paul's drives to the basket and Tanqueray's outside shooting. Russia finally scored and led 32-31 at the break.

Russia's game plan took a big blow straight away in the second half as Vieru was whistled for her fourth foul with 8:55 left in the third period. But Kovalev's side dumped the ball into their other top quality center Zhuzhgova, who scored four straight points followed and Petrova's three-pointer pushed the Russian advantage to 49-40. And Russia led 51-42 going into the fourth.

Ezhova's lay-up made it an 11-point game again and then both sides were unable to knock down decent looks at the basket - including Paul, who missed three long-balls while France still pulled to within 53-46. It was a six-point deficit after Paul's jumper only to see Petrova answer with another trey.

France continued to launch three-pointers to get back into the game but Lukina converted a three-point play and Petrova hit from downtown again for a 65-50 lead with just over two minutes left. Russia missed five straight foul shots in the final minute but France were unable to capitalise as their three-point shots were off-target.

 

 


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