Belarus Finally Show Style, Stay Alive

14.06.2009

By David Hein

The 2007 bronze medalists Belarus finally showed the potential many expected of them by knocking off Lithuania 61-55 to remain alive for the EuroBasket Women 2009 Quarter-Finals.

Anatoli Buyalski's team booked their first victory in the Qualification Round Group F in moving to 1-3 while Lithuania dropped their fourth straight game to fall to 0-4.

Neither team was eliminated as the group's final standings will be determined on Tuesday.

Belarus captain Nataliya Trafamava knocked down four three-pointers in scoring a team-high 16 points while Yelena Leuchanka collected 13 points and 14 rebounds and Anastasiya Verameyenka had 12 points and nine rebounds. Leuchanka and Verameyenka also combined for five assists and five blocked shots.

"This was do or die for us. Our backs were against the wall. That is when we co-operate better as a team, as weird as it may sound. But we just came out and played how we usually did before this tournament," said Tatyana Troina, who added three points, two rebounds, two assists and some tough defense.

Lithuania turned the ball over only eight times but were out-rebounded 45-33 and made just 5 of 20 three-pointers (25 percent).

Egle Stakneviciene paced the Lithuanians with 17 points while Sandra Valuzyte had 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.

"I think they played really better first of all. They had a big advantage on the boards and more rebounds. And that was the deciding factor," said Lithuanian coach Rutenis Paulauskas.

Buyalski said afterwards that he wanted to use his team's size advantage and have the offense move through Leuchanka and Verameyenka, adding: "Today we found the co-operation between the guards and post players which we were missing."

Both Leuchanka and Verameyenka scored and Trafimava knocked down a triple for an early 7-2 lead.

Daina Staugaitiene evened the game back up with a three-ball to make it 9-9. And Belarus were ahead 12-11 after 10 minutes.

Trafimava and Yuliya Dureika both started the second quarter with triples to push the advantage to seven points and Leuchanka and Verameyenka fed each for jumpers and a 22-13 lead and a Lithuania time-out.

The Lithuanians answered with the next four points but Buyalski settled down his troops and Trafimava nailed a long ball and Leuchanka converted a three-point play for a 30-17 gap.

Belarus remained disciplined even after two turnovers and Marchanka nailed a triple at the half-time buzzer to make it 37-23 at intermission.

Verameyenka's foul shots to start the second half made it a 16-point gap - Belarus's biggest lead of the tournament.

Leuchanka scored five points in the quarter to help Lithuania from chipping too much away of the margin, which was still 50-39 after three quarters.

"Even though we had a comfortable lead throughout nearly the entire game, it still didn't give us any relaxation," said Bulayski.

Marchanka was sent to the bench in the first few seconds of the fourth quarter with a bloodied nose after receiving an elbow to the face. She would miss nearly five minutes and Stakneviciene would drain two triples and Rima Valentiene hit a long ball of her own to bring Lithuania within 53-50.

But Trafimava and Troina saved Belarus as both knocked down triples for a 61-52 advantage with 2:30 to play. And Lithuania scored just one point in the final four posssessions.


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