By David HeinAnastasiya Verameyenka collected a double-double including the winning two free throws with 6.7 seconds left as 2007 bronze medalists Belarus booked the first spot in the 2009 EuroBasket Women semi-finals with a 70-68 victory in overtime over Slovakia.
The win also means that Belarus will play at the 2010 World Championship in Czech Republic and the 2011 EuroBasket Women in Poland.
Verameyenka had 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks while Natallia Marchanka scored 12 points
including a crucial three-point play in overtime. Yelena Leuchanka chipped in eight points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
|Natallia Marchanka had 12 points for Belarus.|
Belarus blew a 14-point first half lead and a nine-point advantage with four minutes to play but still set up a semi-final date with the winner of the France-Greece Quarter-Final.
"There was a huge desire to win this game and huge self-dedication. In overtime you cannot look at any tactical points. And you cannot look at rebounds or turnovers. That's not what wins the game," said Buyalski, whose team was out-rebounded 50-35 and committed 20 turnovers.
"It happened exactly what we were talking about. They played well throughout the tournament. And we knew that if we got a lead that they would not give up. And that happened. But in the end we had enough nerves to get the win," said Tatyana Troina, who added eight points despite a knee injury.
"Drama queens. But hey, it's on the board. We won," said Marchanka.
Slovakia meanwhile will face the loser of the France-Greece game in the Classification Round 5-8 for an eventual spot in the 2010 Worlds and 2011 EuroBasket Women.
Slovakia were paced by 23 points from Zuzana Zirkova with Anna Jurcenkova scoring 12 points, Romana Vynuchalova adding 10 and Martina Gyurcsi chipping in nine points and 11 rebounds.
"If you look at the stat sheets, it often means thismuch. We out-rebounded them and had more points in the paint. But the most important point was that we created opportunities but could not take advantage of them," said Slovakia coach Pokey Chatman.
"You cannot dig a 10-foot hole and have a nine-foot ladder."
Verameyenka and Leuchanka combined to score Belarus's first 11 points while Lucia Laskova came off the bench to score two baskets for an 11-11 game with four minutes to play in the first quarter.
The eastern Europeans began to pull ahead with Troina knocking down a three-pointer and then Katsiaryna Snytsina and Yuliya Dureika both hit from long range for a 10-0 run for a 24-13 Belarus lead.
It was 24-15 after one period.
Slovakia's struggles continued in the second quarter as Chatman's team scored just two points in the first 11 possessions with Belarus jumping ahead 30-17. Marchanka nailed a three-ball to push the lead to 14 points, 33-19. And Buyalski's team was ahead 36-23 at the break.
Slovakia opened the second half with an 8-0 run and Jurcenkova came up with two big baskets off the bench to finish off a 19-5 run to push Slovakia ahead 42-41.
The Slovaks could not score the rest of the quarter and Volha Padabed's jumper off the glass went in for a 48-42 lead after three periods.
Marina Kress converted a break-away lay-up and then knocked down a baseline jumper to help Belarus stay ahead 54-47.
Leuchanka's hoop made it 58-49 with four minutes to play but Slovakia refused to die, holding Belarus scoreless for three minutes and Zirkova's triple cut the margin to 60-59. And Laskova made one of two foul shots with 5.9 seconds to play.
Trafimava then threw away the inbounds pass and Zirkova could not get a shot off before the final buzzer went off.
Slovakia were ahead 66-64 when Marchanka knifed into the lane for a driving lay-up and free throw for a Belarus lead.
Troina's free throw made it 68-66 before Zirkova missed a lay-up with nine seconds left, setting up Verameyenka's winning foul shots.