By Paul Nilsen
|Birsel Vardarli sparked Turkey's run in the third quarter with 15 points in that frame|
Turning Point: Early in the third quarter, Turkish guard Birsel Vardarli showed her class and took control of the game. She was the instigator of a devastating 14-0 run, which took the game completely away from Serbia.
Stats Don't Lie: It was a day to forget for Serbia who were trashed 48-27 on the glass and had to contend with Vardarli, Yilmaz and Hollingsworth accumulating 54 points from a spectacular combined floor shooting percentage of 73.33%
Game Heroes: Vardarli finished with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists. Quanitra Hollingsworth also came up big after some indifferent displays and had an excellent double-double of 18 points and 16 rebounds, whilst frontcourt partner Nevriye Yilmaz weighed in with a fantastic 19 points.
A trio of scintillating performances by the big-hitters of Turkey led them past Serbia 92-71 to ensure they took the last spot on the podium with a bronze medal at EuroBasket Women 2013 in Orchies.
Having landed a historic silver medal two years ago in Poland, Ceyhun Yildozoglu and his players secured successive podium finishes, to make up for their disappointment at missing out on back-to-back final appearances.
It was Birsel Vardarli, Nevriye Yilmaz and Quanitra Hollingsworth who stole the show, the latter admitting she needed to answer the critics.
"I felt as though I didn't come out and play in the semi-final against France," said Hollingsworth.
"So, I felt it was important that I made a statement in this game and it feels good to come away with a medal."
Turkey were handed a boost ahead of the game, when Serbia decided against risking Ana Dabovic who had been carrying a knee injury throughout the second half of the tournament.
However, it didn't have much of an impact, since Serbia looked fluid on offence and playing with freedom, they took advantage of some worryingly wayward and lax Turkish defence to move 16-9 in front.
Much to the noticeable irritation of Coach Yildizoglu, his players kept conceding points far too easily and with Sara Krnjic producing her best form of the tournament for Serbia, it kept them in front.
And, just as Turkey began to peg Serbia back, a lay-up by Tamara Radocaj on the buzzer kept them in front 44-43 heading to the locker rooms at the half.
When Jelena Milovanovic hit a three at the start of the third quarter, it looked like Serbia would continue in the same vein but it wasn't to be, as Vardarli found a completely new gear.
Almost inconsolable after defeat by France and with her colleagues struggling to impose themselves against their pesky Serbian opponents, she simply put her team on her back.
She found her range from the perimeter and dished up some nice assists for Yilmaz and Hollingsworth who did the damage in the paint.
Once Turkey broke away, they had little trouble in maintaining their cushion as Serbia tried in vain to respond and recover.
Despite missing out bronze head coach Marina Maljkovic described her team's fourth place finish as shining just like gold - and it was hard to disagree.
Serbia Player Jelena Milovanovic:
"This was one of the biggest games in my life. We were playing an excellent first half, we were fighting. I have the feeling we almost got scared in the second half of actually winning the game. We made some major mistakes that Turkey used with their experience. Congratulations to the Turkish team."
Serbia Head Coach Marina Maljkovic:
"First of all congratulations to Turkey. Then I'd like to congratulate my players, not only on their showings at this championship, but way before when nobody believed we would even qualify to the event. Our journey started last summer. Considering all factors on and off the court, this fourth place shines like the gold medal. Look at who we left behind us, great teams like Belarus, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Italy... In our country only 1,000 girls play basketball. Women's basketball was dead. Now it's the time to rise. If it doesn't rise now, it never will."
Turkey Player Isil Alben:
"Congratulations to Serbia for the great effort they showed today. We did not start as we planned but as the game progressed we increased our defensive intensity. In the second half we started tougher and the defence gave us the offensive chances. I am really proud to be part of this team and my country. This medal is so important for us because we won two medals in a row."
Turkey Head Coach Ceyhun Yildizoglu:
"Congratulations to Serbia, they proved that they were really prepared to play this championship and during the first half they proved this also against us. In the second half we gained control and we could win the bronze medal. These players have done very good things in the last three tournaments and they are making the steps to be followed by next generations, to win a gold medal in the near future. We have now the U20 European Chamionship Women on Turkey and I expect this generations to win the title."