|Yelena Leuchanka led Belarus to victory with 16 points and 6 rebounds|
by Paul Nilsen
Turning Point: Despite an initial and confident opening burst by Sweden, they had their fingers burnt by Belarus, who finally caught fire from downtown having not shot the ball well from outside throughout the tournament. They made a stunning six triples in a row in the early stages, with three of them coming from Natallia Anufryienka as they got onto the front foot. Once ahead 26-21, Sweden were always playing catch-up and just didn't have enough left in the tank.
Stats Don't Lie: Before the game, Belarus had shot only 28.8% from downtown but improved that performance by converting 38.1%. Additionally, Sweden missed far too much inside where they shot only 28.8% and were out-rebounded 44 to 33.
Game Heroes: There was a game-winning trio for Belarus. Anufryienka shot the lights out and finished with four triples in a 17 point performance, during only 19 minutes of court time. Yelena Leuchanka and Anastasiya Verameyenka did a good job inside with the former registering 16 points and six rebounds and the latter contributing 14 points and nine boards.
Belarus piled more misery on heartbroken Sweden to take a 69-48 victory in Orchies and snatch the final berth for the FIBA World Championship for Women next year in Turkey.
After their monumental quarter-final against France the night before, Sweden simply hit the wall and looked emotionally and physically drained - hardly surprising in the circumstances.
And, to their absolute credit, Belarus took full advantage by sharpening their shooting and doing a good job defensively on the Swedes.
Unsurprisingly, Swedish head coach Lars Johansson wasted no time in admitting his team had been completely outplayed.
He said, "I must say a very well played to Belarus.
"This is a bitter loss for us because we started out well with a very good first five minutes, but Belarus stepped up their defence and made it difficult for us.
"We then fell apart as a team and we couldn't continue where we left off against France."
Despite a rapid-fire 12-4 start for Sweden, which witnessed Elin Elderbink pulling a nice spin move in the post before pumping both fists in the air, their joy would be very much short-lived.
As Belarus suddenly exploded from long-range in quite spectacular style, Sweden began to lose all rhythm and began to really force the play, which left them floundering 28-21.
Then, with the seconds ticking down before half-time, Anufryienka drove another long-range dagger into Sweden to keep her team 31-24 ahead.
When Elin Eldebrink made a three-pointer and Kadidja Andersson pulled a tough inside move on Verameyenka, it was back to a one-shot game at 37-34.
But, it was a false dawn for Sweden, who couldn't prevent Belarus scoring seven straight points to ease away once more.
As hard as Sweden tried in the final quarter to make one last comeback, they simply ran out of gas as Belarus rejoiced by continuing to play impressively at both ends of the floor to wrap up their FIBA World Championship for Women spot.
Sweden Player Elisabeth Egnell:
"Congratulantions to Belarus for their ticket to the World Championship. We played today a bad game after yesterday's match [against France], it is a really tough loss."
Belarus Player Marina Kress:
"It was a very important game for us, we are very happy because we will be at the next World Championship. Today we did a great job, we played well on defence but also on offence we had a good game, and obviously Sweden's players were tired after the game against France."
Sweden Head Coach Johansson:
"Congratulations to Belarus for getting a place at the World Championship. We started really good for the first five minutes, but then we fell apart , we could not continue the level we showed yesterday. Belarus also showed a very good performance."
Belarus Head Coach Rimantas Grigas:
"Congratulations to my girls for the job and I want to thank the Swedish team for their game yesterday, as a coach it was a pleasure to watch that game. Today we prepared the match really well, we were ready mentally. We knew it would be very hard to face a team like them. I am very satisfied with this win."