By Cindy Garcia-BennettBelarus continued their dream run at the EuroBasket by upsetting the defending champions Czech Republic 52-46 to reach the semi-finals for the first time in their history.
Facing a Belarus team that is growing in confidence with every game in Italy, the Czechs failed to score for more than nine minutes late in the game.
Katsyarina Snytsina scored seven of Belarus' 12 points in the final quarter and also came up with a key block of a Jana Vesela shot two minutes from the end.
|Natallia Marchanka was a catalyst for Belarus once again with 11 points.|
Belarus, having only just won promotion from division B, will now take on the winner of Spain's quarter-final clash against Belgium.
"This is a great victory for our team and our country," said Belarus coach Anatoli Buyalski.
"Three years ago, I told a newspaper back home that our team will play in the Olympic Games and everybody laughed. Now, who knows?"
Belarus led by as many as eight points in the first half and went to the locker rooms holding a 31-27 advantage.
However, they went ice-cold midway through the third quarter, and the Czechs led by Petra Kulichova's hothand went on an 8-0 run to lead 41-39 going into the final stanza.
With 5:21 left, Snytsina made a jumper for a 43-41 lead, and she hit another shot next trip down the floor to stretch the lead to four.
Belarus led for the remainder of the game.
Snystsina finished with 10 points while team-mates Natallia Marchanka and Yelena Leuchanka added 11 apicece.
The Czech Republic hurt their chances but making six of 14 (42.9%) from the free-throw line.
Belarus, who outrebounded the Czech Republic 43-34, finished eight of 12 (66.7%) from the charity stripe.
"This is just a really really bad day for us," said forward Jana Vesela, who led her team in scoring with 11 points.
"Belarus played really well. They really played great defense. We didn't play like a team and didn't get good position for our shooters."