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Slovakia Aim To Avoid Letdown

14 June 2009
Slovakia have taken the EuroBasket Women by storm, with Saturday's 78-69 triumph over hosts Latvia in a rowdy Arena Riga providing the national side with arguably the most thrilling moment in its history.

Back in the Final Round for the first time since 2003, Zuzana Zirkova and Co have taken advantage by clinching a spot in the Quarter-Finals with four victories in their five games in Latvia.

They will go for a third Qualifying Round win on Monday when they go up against Greece, a team they played in three friendly games in the build-up to the tournament.

"The three games that we played against them were just practice," said Slovakia coach Pokey Chatman. "It meant nothing.

"We were learning then. Both teams were without key players.

"Greece is an exciting team, they show emotion, play with energy.

"We are going to have to double-up our defense but we also have to make sure we do the job at both ends of the court."

Greece and Evina Maltsi have provided the competition with some of its most exciting moments.

After winning in Group B over Hungary, they suffered narrow defeats to Poland and Latvia while in the Qualifying Round they have lost heavily to Spain and beaten the Czech Republic.

Maltsi wasn't surprised that Slovakia overcame the loss of Ivana Jalcova to a broken finger in their victory over Latvia.

"She's a good player and they are going to miss her but their strength is that they play as a team, so we can't expect that to hurt them," Maltsi said.
 
Last Time Out: Slovakia beat Greece 81-74 in the Preliminary Round of the EuroBasket 2001.
 
Key Match-Up:  Slovakia's Zuzana Zirkova vs Greece's Evina Maltsi.  Zirkova poured in a game-high 24 points in their victory over Latvia. She stole the show eight years ago when she had a game-high 22 the last time both teams met. Slovakia managed to limit Latvian superstar Anete Jekabsone-Zogota to six second-half points and they will need to apply the same pressure if they are to slow down the high-scoring Maltsi (22.8ppg).

Stats: Slovakia had nine of their 14 steals in the second-half and scored 27 points off Latvia's 21 turnovers. Greece finished level with the Czech Republic in the rebounding department at 38-38.
 
X-Factor: Slovakia will be looking for another great performance from Martina Gyurcsi. The veteran forward scored 13 of her 17 points in the third quarter, dished out four assists and came up with three steals.

Sounding-Off: "Slovakia is a very good side. They play similar defense to us. I believe that whoever shows more heart in the game, will take the win" - Greece head coach Kostas Missas.

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