By David Hein
Raffaella Masciadri and Laura Macchi combined for 33 points as Italy clinched second place in the 2009 EuroBasket Women Group D with a 67-58 victory over Belarus.
Masciadri knocked down four three-pointers on her way to 20 points for the Italians, who finished the Preliminary Round in Valmiera with a 2-1 record.
Ticchi Giampiero's Italy out-rebounded Belarus 35-30 and held the 2007 bronze medalists to just 14 points
in the paint with Belarus dropping to 1-2 to take third place in the group.
|Raffaella Masciadri poured in 20 points for Italy.|
"We just tried to keep them out of the paint and make them shoot from the outside. We knew they had some good shooters but we thought we could limit them," said Italian center Kathrin Ress.
"We were trying to help our bigs inside because Belarus have very great players," said Masciadri, who was one of seven Italians with at least three rebounds.
Belarus coach Anatoli Buyalsky was not happy with his team's showing.
"We knew coming into the game that we could not leave (Masciadri) open. But we have to give her credit for hitting her shots. But she had so much space and that cannot be explained," said the coach, whose team shot just 35 percent for the game.
"We only had a few stretches where we played well but not all together. All we have to do is forget this game."
Katsiaryna Snytsina led Belarus with 13 points while Yelena Leuchanka had 12 points and Tatyana Troina chipped in 10 off the bench.
Belarus started out missing their first five shots but Masciadri's layup gave Italy only a 4-0 lead after nearly three minutes played.
Leuchanka converted a three-point play and hit a jumper and Natallia Marchanka nailed a triple in an 14-2 answer for a 14-6 lead.
After scoring on one of 10 possessions, Ticchi's team would then hit back-to-back baskets and Belarus led just 18-12 after one period.
Troina started the second quarter with a three-ball but Masciadri answered right back with a long ball of her own and Maria Franchini also hit from long range.
The Azzurre twice scored baskets after offensive rebounds during a 10-0 run for a 28-24 advantage, and Simona Ballardini hit from long range before Laura Macchi's free throws gave the Italians a 33-27 advantage.
Snytsina connected on a three-pointer as Belarus pulled to within 35-30 at the break.
Belarus again started slowly with three scoreless possessions out of the locker room and Macchi's long three-pointer made it a 10-point game for the first time, 40-30 two minutes into the second half.
Leuchanka and Troina scored nine straight points for Belarus to trim the margin to 45-39 with three minutes left in the third.
But Buyalsky's team went four possessions without a score and Ballardini's steal and break-away layup made it a 51-39 gap. It was 54-42 after three periods.
Masciadri's free throws early in the fourth gave Italy their biggest lead of the game, 56-42 with eight minutes to play.
But Giampiero's side went seven possessions without a score, including three times within a minute where Italy turned the ball over because of Belarus's press defense and Belarus pulled within 56-52 with five minutes to play.
"This was a big problem. But I didn't want to call many timeouts. They are very good players and they have to solve things on the court on their own," said the Italian coach.
Macchi came up with a big blocked shot late in the shot clock and then Masciadri drained her fourth triple to push Italy back ahead by 11 points, 63-52.
And Belarus would not get closer than seven points the rest of the way.