Two big surprises rocked the ACI Trading Ltd U20 European Championship for Women on the third day as both hosts Czech Republic and partial title favourites Russia have missed the cut and are out of contention in the Quarter Finals.
Despite being almost certain of qualification after Day 2, Russia suffered a heavy loss against Italy and ended in 3rd place in the Group due to the large point difference. The Czechs went down against Spain after an inspired 4th quarter performance from the Spanish side.
Greece - Finland 57:56
There were bitter tears of disappointment from the Finnish team as today's loss means playing in the group fighting for 9th – 16th positions. In a match full of surprises, the Greeks led 53-39 with 11 minutes to go.
|Fia Ohtonen's three-pointer was not enough to save Finland against Greece|
Finland grabbed their opportunity with both hands and worked their way back into contention, even taking a brief lead on an Ohtonen three-pointer with just under 2 minutes to go (56-55).
Greece replied with a shot from Chalivera and Finland made a major tactical error, allowing Greece to run out the final 23 seconds of the match without fouling.
Dimitris Bakogeorgos (Greece): "On one hand I am happy that we won. On the other I cannot be happy about today's performance of our team as the match drew to the close. We let our opponent come back to the game. But reaching the quarterfinals is without doubt a great success."
Seppo Sonkeri (Finland): "We had bad luck. After a great performance we totally reversed the match, we were one step to the victory that would mean advancement but we did not make the last minute. Our players were exhausted and we probably made tactical mistakes as well."
France - Belgium 88:43
France had no trouble with Belgium in what turned out to be a rout for the French team. France led by more than 20 points in the first half, allowing head coach Francis Denis to give all his players extended court time.
Johanne Gomis and Fatimatou Sacko looked especially impressive for France with their accurate shooting and Belgium were given no chance of getting back into the contest.
Francis Denis (France): "We are satisfied. All players were given a chance to take part. We have played three matches so far and achieved three victories but we do not want to be proud because the hardest matches are in front of us."
Arvid Diels (Belgium): "We were aware of the fact that France is a tough competitor for us. In spite of the fact that we lost today's match, it provided our players with valuable experience."
Romania - Croatia 66:70
A Croatian team with 2 first round victories to their name looked nervous against Romania and literally slept through the opening quarter.
Romania took advantage and were strong on defense and accurate with their shooting, behind good performances from Gagriela Marginean and Viorela Rus.
Croatia woke up in the second half and tied the game at the end of the third, setting up an exciting fourth quarter.
Everything was up for grabs in the final period as both teams went all out for the win. But it was Croatia who edged the game, mainly thanks to their superiority under the basket.
Dan Morarau (Romania): "We were under big pressure the whole match. We were doing well in the first half, in the second half the nervousness came to the fore, we made many mistakes and the Croatians took the lead. We lost but we will keep on fighting."
Linda Mrdalj (Croatia): "Our players were "resting" a bit in the first half. We played more precisely, with tougher defence and more accurate shooting in the second half. We are happy that we won, it was a good match."
Germany - Poland 48:78
Poland secured qualification to the quarter-final round with an easy win against Germany.
The Polish barely gave a tired looking German side a chance as their fast break game got into swing.
Germany looked physically unprepared for the contest, and their fatigue led to a huge number of fouls (38 total) with Penn, Austmann and Doharty all fouling out. On the offensive side, the Germans made just 8/33 of their 2-point field goal attempts.
Aleksandra Kojic (Germany): "We were not able to equalize the eighteen-point lead after the first quarter, we were tired after the demanding beginning of the championship. We must now concentrate on keeping ourselves in Division A."
Roman Skrzecz (Poland): "It was a very rough game but we could deal with our competitor's tactics because we were fully ready. We wanted to decide the match in the beginning and we did it so there was no need to be afraid about the result."
Czech republic : Spain 71 : 73
Gemma Garcia inspired a dramatic fightback as Spain secured a 73-71 win over the Czech Republic.
|Gema Garcia saved Spain with a final quarter scoring spree|
Point guard Garcia scored Spain's last nine points in a nerve-wracking final quarter.
The score had swung both ways with Spain holding a one-point lead (57-56) at the end of the third quarter. However, after the Czechs bounced back with just three minutes remaining, they looked to be on track with a 71-64 lead.
It was then that Garcia showed her real character, scoring five points, forcing two fouls and scoring four free throws to seal what had started to look like an unlikely victory.
"Everyone has congratulated me and I am very happy, but the main thing is that the team won," she said.
"Now we can carry on and hope to cause an upset in the quarter-finals.
"I felt inspired, although in those last four free throws my hands were sweating!
"Normally I am not very good from there and I was certain I was going to miss one, but that didn't happen and we won."
Jiří Růžička (Czech republic): "I see the main reason of our defeat in the lack of discipline towards the end of the game. During time-outs we said one thing but what could then be seen on the court was just the opposite. Our unexperienced team started to worry about the victory. We missed motion, courage and a good ending."
Fernandes Sanchez (Spain): "Garcia made a remarkable performance which actually ensured us the quarterfinals. At the end of the match I did not practically hope that our competitor would let go such a promising lead. We tried more active and aggressive play in defence. Czech team got from some reason nervous and their mistakes opened the door to our very valuable victory."
Russia - Italy 65 : 85
After 2 group victories, favourites Russia suffered a shock defeat to Italy and lost any chance of making the quarter-final round.
The Italians looked strong from the start, as their tactics and shooting accuracy allowed them to build an early lead.
Russia, on the other hand, seemed as if they had lost the fighting spirit which had been a hallmark of their previous games. The game was summed up by Russian coach Galina Voronina who sat on the bench in resignation and left the match immediately after the buzzer with tears in her eyes.
Benedetta Bagnara led Italy with 20 points, while Kathrin Ress had 16 and Lavinia Santuci and Chiara Pastore 12 apiece.
|Benedetta Bagnara led Italy to victory over Russia|
Roberto Abate (Italy): "Of course I am very satisfied with our team's performance. We were afraid of the Russian team but from the beginning, due to the accurate shooting and good defence, the match worked out well for us. It is a very nice result that was achieved by team work."
Latvia - Ukraine 69 : 74
Both teams have already achieved two victories, but from the beginning it was the Latvian team that was more successful and that took lead in the first half, especially due to very good defensive tactics and accurate shooting from Lasma Jekabsone.
In the second half the Ukrainian team fought back and the game very close. In fact, it was so close that after 40 minutes the game was still tied 65-65 and went into overtime.
It was Ukraine who grabbed the initiative in overtime and finished winners 69-74. Olexandra Gorbunova led Ukraine with 26 points and 17 rebounds.
Maryna Tkačenko (Ukraine): "It was a very close match where we fulfilled our hope to advance among the best eight teams. But we are still at the beginning and we have all really hard matches in front of us."
Ainars Cukste (Latvia): "I was satisfied with the team's performance. Now we have to concentrate on the next matches that are in front of us."
Hungary - Turkey 69 : 63
It took 2 overtimes to separate these two sides and after a supremely close contest, it was Hungary who emerged victorious.
It was Turkey’s Isil Alben who sent the game into the first overtime with 2 free throws at the end of regulation.
The first period of overtime was marked by sloppy play as the two sides combined for just 8 points.
Towards the end of the second overtime, Hungary stepped up their game and jumped out to a 9-point lead, which Turkey were not able to answer.
Arkos Fuzy (Hungary): "The match brought about a big drama and a happy ending for our team. We have shown the best performance so far and victory should help our psyches in the next level of this championship."
Yiloizoglu Cejhun (Turkey): "I’m sorry that we lost but I cannot reproach the players too much. At the end the luck got out of our way."