By Paul Nilsen
|Frida Eldebrink once more led Sweden, this time with 17 points|
Turning Point: Sweden were missing far too many free-throws in the game, but finally found some accuracy when it mattered during the closing minutes of the contest.
Stats Don't Lie: The Slovak Republic were able to keep themselves in the game until the latter stages because they took much better care of the ball. Instead of their trademark twenty plus turnovers, they spilled it 16 times. Sweden made life difficult on themselves by missing 10 free throws.
Game Heroes: Frida Eldebrink and Elisabeth Egnell scored 17 points each, with the latter making some big plays during crunch time. There was a nice efficient contribution from Katarina Andersson, who was four of six from the field.
Sweden took the last remaining quarter-final spot at EuroBasket Women 2013 courtesy of a hard-fought 75-72 win against the Slovak Republic who will miss the last phase in Orchies, along with Montenegro.
Having started like an express train and accumulating a big lead, Sweden almost came off the rails as the Slovak Republic showed great fighting spirit to drag themselves back into the game.
Sweden gave up 19 offensive rebounds and missed a lot of free throws which gave them problems, although head coach Lars Johansson was still delighted at taking a quarter-final spot.
He said, "We started out really well, but Slovakia never gave up and they made it a really difficult and tough game.
"Coaching is not as fun as watching, but I want to congratulate my players - it is a big day for Swedish Basketball."
He added, "I want to pay tribute to my coaching staff since we might not have the best head coach in Europe, but we have the best staff, because they work hard around the clock to help the team."
A one-shot game in the first quarter when Dominika Baburova made a score for the Slovak Republic, Sweden had initially exploded by putting up 13 points without reply as they stormed into a 26-11 advantage.
But, the Slovak Republic responded and by half-time, had worked their way to within ten points at 46-36.
When they continued their revival at the start of the third quarter by making the first two baskets, a frustrated Coach Johansson called a quick time-out to try and get the Swedish players back on track.
But, they could only muster nine points during 10 minutes as the Slovak Republic continued to hang around.
When Eva Kmetova opened her team's account in the last quarter with a three-ball, they were only 55-53 behind and it contributed to a tense finale.
Sweden responded with six straight points and it briefly settled their nerves, but again Slovakia came back, this time Zuzana Brezianova scoring from behind the arc to make it 65-62, with just under three minutes remaining.
Elin Eldebrink fouled out for the Swedes along with Kadidja Andersson, but some big plays from Egnell helped them sneak the win, as Lucia Kupcikova failed to get her shot off in last-ditch attempt to force overtime for Slovakia.
Slovakia Player Romana Vynuchalova:
"We had again the same problem, we didn't start the game well; we missed a lot of layups and during the whole game we were trying to make up our performance in the first quarter. At least, the last three quarters we played pretty good, with one of our best performances at this tournament. At the end it was bad luck and also a better performance by Sweden, they did a really good job on defence."
Sweden Player Kadidja Andersson:
"It was a really tough game from the beginning to the end. To me, maybe the Slovak Republic played their best game of the tournament. I think they are a very good team with very talented players, but it is true they missed a lot of shots under the basket. I am really happy for the win and the way we did it."
Slovakia Head Coach Ivan Vojtko:
"We just came late to the game, but after the first minutes I think we played pretty good, we fought a lot. Everybody could see that our main problem was the easy layups we missed, in moments we needed it. I am not satisfied with some easy shots we left to our opponents, a lot of free throws, but we showed a good fight, a good game on defence and all I can say is goodbye."
Sweden Head Coach Lars Johansson:
"Congratulations to the Slovak team because they never gave up; I assume it was a fun game to watch. Then again, watching is always more fun than coaching. It is a big day for Swedish basketball so I want to congratulate my players because they take the challenges and I really like coaching them. Also I want to congratulate my staff, we might not have the best head coach in Europe, but we have the best staff. The quarter-final game against France is going to be the biggest challenge for us, and we will try to find some way to make it a close game."