By Yarone Arbel
Some things don't change so quickly.
Just like in every EuroBasket in the 21st century Russia will play the finals.
A big 67-36 win over Latvia in the first semi-finals paved the way for Russia's fourth performance in a row in the finals game.
They will take on the winner of the second semi-final between Belarus and Spain, while Latvia will face the loser of the second semi to fight for the bronze medal.
|Arteshina was a bear for Latvia to deal with dropping in 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds.|
The runners-up from the last tournament will get a chance to win their second gold medal out of four finals appearances, but also to win the only available secured ticket to the Olympic games next year.
Since the USSR in 1985 no country has won both the men's and the women's EuroBaskets.
Russia will have that chance tomorrow night.
"The most important point was to win today," said Russia's coach Igor Grudin.
"The game was difficult for us from the beginning and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota gave us some problems.
"Like yesterday, I was not satisfied with the first 10 minutes on defense. But after that we set in and it got much better."
Once again it was a third quarter run that made the game one-sided, but it started before that.
For a 10 minute stretch starting at 8:14 to go in the second quarter and running into the second half, Latvia didn't score a single point.
Russia took a six point lead at half time, but already early in the third quarter left no doubts who's going to prevail from the first semi.
Latvia deserve a lot of credits despite the big loss.
In the 15th minute one of their most important players, Gunta Basko, hurt her right elbow.
She returned to the court but basically played without her shooting arm.
Jekabsone-Zogota carried an injury herself from the first quarter of the game against France two days ago.
Right before the first half buzzer she suffered another hit and was not at her best.
Jekabsone-Zogota still finished with 18 points, half of the total of Latvia, who scored a tournament low of 36 points.
"They really played an excellent game, especially in the second half," concluded Alinars
Zvirgzdins, the head coach of the Latvian team.
|Basko went down with an elbow injury and though she returned Latvia never recovered.|
"Our game broke down when Basko was injured. Afterwards Jekabsone was also injured. Both are our engines.
"Without them our game disappeared and the other girls did not believe they could fight against Russia.
"I have to apologise that we could not get a respectable result in the second half because our bench is not as deep as Russia."
The Russian twin towers - Maria Stepanova and Irina Osipova - dominated the paint once again.
Both finished with a mirrored double-double - Stepanova had 12 points and 11 rebounds while Osipova had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Olga Arteshina was the top scorer of Russia tonight with 16 points after she finished the first half with only two.
"We really played well as a team today," said Russia's Natalia Vodopyanova. "We had some problems in the first quarter with our defense, but starting the second quarter we all grouped together the rest of the way. We have a lot of different players that can pick up their game, and every game someone else can step up."
Latvia started stronger and it was clear to the eye on both ends of court.
Ieva Kublina produced six points and seven rebounds already in the first quarter.
Once Jekabsone-Zogota got in her zone with a three pointer Russia was down 7-15 and called for a time out.
Latvia stayed on top thanks to second chances points under the Russian rim, but saw Russia's Svetlana Abrosimova lead a 6-0 run at the end of the period to make it only 17-16 Latvia after ten minutes.
Russia completed their take over by going up 22-21 and exactly then Basko went down.
The finalists dominated the boards, especially on offense, while Latvia went out of focus after Basko's injury.
Irina Osipova stepped up with a big shot to give Russia a 27-21 lead at half time, and just before the buzzer it was Jekabsone-Zogota's time to get injured.
She returned to the second half and broke the 10 minute drought with a point from the line.
Less than a minute later she added a field goal and made it just a five point game, but Arteshina replied right away with eight points in a row to lead a 12-2 Russian run.
"I don't have much to say about this game. I'm sorry we couldn't offer more opposition against Russia today," said Jakebsone-Zogota.
"If we could play like we did in the first quarter and most of the first half, then it would not have been that big of a difference. But Basko got injured and that hurt us and our bench is not as deep as the Russian team.
"Russia is approximately 100 times bigger than us and I'm very proud we made it this far."
Down by 15 with their stars injured Latvia had no real chance to recover.
Russia showed no mercy and didn't allow any easy baskets and kept Latvia on no more than six field goals in the second half and a total of 15 points.