Serbia & Montenegro produced the first sensation of the quarter-finals at the European Championship for U18 Women here in Bratislava.
France were the clear favourites going into the contest, but Serbia & Montenegro dug deep and produced a strong final 5 minutes to take the game, 54:57.
After a typically quick start from the French (they led 16:7 at the end of the first quarter), it seemed as though the form would be respected. Serbia & Montenegro were not only trailing, but their star player Jelena Dubljevic picked up 3 fouls in the first 10 minutes and would not reappear in the game until the 4th quarter.
Serbia & Montenegro cut the lead to 4 points in the period and after a tense third, France took a 2-point lead into the final quarter, 42:40.
After a deadlocked 4 minutes of play, 2 consecutive baskets from Milhana Musovic sparked a 6:0 Serbia & Montenegro run.
It was then, at the 4:36 mark that Dubljevic re-entered the game. She immediately scored 2 baskets inside and Serbia & Montenegro built an 8-point lead, 48:54.
France’s championship was suddenly on the line, but rather than meekly allow the game to run away from them, the French attacked. 2 quick baskets from Clarisse Costaz and a fast break score by Yvette Assilamehou reduced the deficit to just 2 points, 54:56.
France had a golden opportunity to tie the score, but in the face of a determined Serb & Montenegrin zone defense, they coughed the ball up. Dunja Prcic came up with the steal and was immediately fouled.
It was Knezevic who had the game‘s final say.
3.8 seconds remained when she was fouled and had the opportunity to end France’s championship dreams. The 185 cm forward could only make one of two foul shots, but it was enough.
France managed to get off a shot in their 3.8 seconds, but it never threatened to go in.
The first sensation of the tournament was complete. Serbia & Montenegro collapsed into celebration while France were left contemplating, at best, 5th place in the championship.