|14 July 2004|
Day 5 of the European Championship for U18 Women offered no major surprises. The action began with a make-or-break game for Israel against France. Israel had the tough task of taking on the undefeated French in a must-win game for them if they were to keep their championship hopes alive.
The game was at 9 o'clock, a good sign for Israel because France had struggled with their early game on day 4 against Turkey.
But ultimately the task proved to steep for Israel and they suffered defeat, 64:58. Despite the loss, Israel can be proud of the way they performed. It was only in the last 5 minutes that France were able to see off the Israeli challenge.
|France's Sandrine Gruda|
French center Sandrine Gruda was her side's top scorer and rebounder with 16 and 10.
The oddest sight of the day came after Hungary's 55:58 loss to Serbia & Montenegro. The final buzzer saw the Hungarian players high five each other, while Serbia & Montenegro trudged off the courts, heads hanging.
The reason? Serbia & Montenegro needed to win by at least an 8-point margin to avoid finishing in 4th place in Group A. They didn't achieve that goal and the result is that they will face France in the quarter-finals.
After a strong third quarter in which they held Hungary to just 4 points, Serbia & Montenegro took a 34:40 lead into the final period and seemed as though they would win by the required points margin.
But Hungary came back into the contest and reduced the defecit enough to reward them with third place in the group and a quarter-final match-up with Spain.
Despite the loss, Serbia & Montenegro got a standout game from Adrijana Knezevic, who went for 21 points and 7 rebounds. Jelena Dubljevic was her usual reliable self and contributed 18 points and 16 rebounds to the win.
Slovakia's championship hopes were put to an end by Turkey in a 65:56 loss. Turkish guard Isil Alben was the tournament's leading scorer going into the game. She struggled against Slovakia, hitting for just 4 points on 1/6 shooting.
Fortunately center Melike Bakircioglu (19 points and 12 rebounds) and forward Kübra Siyahdemir (18 points) picked up the slack in the frontcourt and guided Turkey to victory.
Ukraine got a fright in their 96:73 loss to Russia, when the tournament's leading scorer and rebounder Olexandra Gorbunova had to leave the game with a nasty gash to the head. She was taken to the hospital as a precaution but will be fine for the quarter-finals.
Without their top player Ukraine had little chance against Russia, which was reflected in the final scoreline. By halftime, the Russians had already racked up 50 points to Ukraine's 29 and the game was effectively over.
Tatiana Bokareva, one of the many talented centers at this tournament, led the onslaught with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Russia have now cracked 90 points 3 times in Bratislava, while Ukraine is the only other team to achieve that feat.
Belarus and Germany had the misfortune of meeting up for the wooden spoon in Group A. With both teams already out of the running, motivation was hard to come by.
But it was Belarus who dug deep and came up with a win, mainly thanks to a brutal
shooting display from the Germans who could hit just 22% of their field goal attempts.
Anastasiya Verameyenka showed that she has the potential to be one of Europe's top players and she led Belarus with 19 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks.
The best game was saved until last and the contest between Spain and Bulgaria. Both teams were assured of a quarter-final spot, but it remained to be seen who they would play.
The game was not decided until the last second. Spain's Marta Garcia came up short on 2 free throw attempts with the scores tied at 59, giving Bulgaria 19 seconds to take the last shot of the game.
The Bulgarians executed perfectly. Ekaterina Dimitrova got the ball inside and was fouled with 1.8 seconds remaining.
Neither a Spanish time-out nor jeering from the fans in attendance could upset Dimitrova's concentration. She raised a finger in celebration after nailing the first and, after swishing the second, glanced at the audience with a deservedly smug look.
Spain had a last-chance effort but could only manage a shot from inside their own half that just scraped the rim.
Dimitrova, a 178 cm guard, has not played to her potential in the opening games but tonight had a breakout performance. As well as the winning free throws, she tallied 19 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in 39 minutes.
The win gives Bulgaria 2nd place in the group and a match-up with Hungary, while Spain will face Ukraine in Friday's quarter-finals.