By David Hein
The Czech Republic may not get the chance to defend their EuroBasket Women title, but they did remain alive for the pre-Olympic qualification tournament with a comfortable 75-50 victory over Belgium on Saturday.
Michaela Uhrova came off the bench to score 15 points and Eva Viteckova added 14 points as the 2005 champions advanced to a Sunday showdown with Lithuania for fifth place at the 2007 EuroBasket Women.
“It was good that we had a day off after our defeat against Belarus. Our priority was to
focus on this game. We knew that we had two matches to achieve qualification for pre-Olympic tournament,” said Viteckova, who added three rebounds, four assists and two steals.
|Katerina Elhotova led the Czech Republic with 21 points to go with six rebounds.|
"For us, it's a big disappointment not to be able to finish in the top four but at least we have a chance to qualify for the Olympics.”
The Czechs's tough defense forced Beglium into 22 turnovers and held them to 39% (19-of-48) shooting, including 0-of-10 from three-point range, while holding Ann Wauters to 17 points.
"I think we played great defense and we didn't let Ann Wauters to play as she can. She scored 17 points but we limited her effectiveness,” Viteckova added.
Czech boss Jan Bobrovsky also was able to rest his starters, with none playing more than 26 minutes.
In fact, the Czech bench out-scored the starting five 40-35, including Michala Hartigova's 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Belgium, who lost their fourth straight match after four victories to start the tournament, will face France for seventh place in Sunday's first match.
“I think we started really poorly. Since we lost to Latvia, we’ve been going down slowly and we’re playing worse,” said Belgium coach Laurent Buffard.
Wauters led Belgium with 17 points but no other players scored more than seven points.
“We’re very disappointed. Our goal was to be fifth. We have some regrets after losing two close games in the second round. If we hadn’t, it might have been different now,” said Wauters.
“We had a goal, we didn’t achieve it. But that’s life, that’s sports, life goes on.”
The Czechs didn't allow anything easy early for Belgium, who missed 10 of their first 11 shots and committed five turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game, and Petra Kulichova's third basket gave Bobrovsky's team a 17-2 lead.
Evelien Callens' jumper ended a 6:26 scoreless drought and Belgium trailed 20-7 after one period.
Buffard's team tried to scrape back into it as Wauters scored her first points of the game. The Belgian star tallied nine points in the quarter, but the Czechs didn't let up defensively and Hartigova's eight second quarter points – including two three-pointers – helped keep Belgium at bay, 39-24 at the break.
Wauters sparked a 9-4 run to start the third period with Kathy Wambe's basket cutting the deficit to 10 points – 43-33 – at the 4:18 mark of the quarter. But Uhrova drained three-pointers to start and finish a 15-4 spurt to close the third ahead 58-37.
The Belgians had one final push to get back into the game and trimmed the deficit to 16 points – 64-48 with four minutes left. The Czechs, however, answered with the next eight points to put the contest to rest for good.