Czechs Happy To End Russian Dominance

12.09.2005

The Czech Republic are no longer the 'nearly women' of European basketball after a stunning come-from-behind, gold medal win on Sunday against Russia - their nemesis in recent EuroBaskets.

The Russians beat the Czech Republic 61-51 in the quarter-finals in 1999 and then in 2003, Jan Bobrovsky's team went unbeaten before falling to Russia 59-56 in the title clash.

Before the political changes in eastern Europe, when Russia was a part of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia was a unified country, the former beat the latter 64-61.

Hana Machová (Czech Republic)
Hana Machová  was an integral part of Czech Republic's undefeated run to gold
"We finally broke a series of second places of Czechoslovakian or Czech teams in the final," Bobrovsky said.

On Sunday, the Czechs had appeared to be headed for another disappointment and trailed by 14 points at the start of the second half.

They doggedly pursued the Russians, though, and finally took the lead with eight seconds left when Eva Nemcova buried her second three-pointer.

A Russian turnover with three seconds left then all but assured victory for Nemcova and Co.

When asked what had been the most important ingredient in his side's triumph, Bobrovsky said:

"The faith of all my players in critical moments when we did not play well.

"We finally won against Russia in a big competition. We lost to this team in a quarterfinal of the European Championship six years ago and again in a final in Greece two years ago."

The result capped a magical tournament for Nemcova, whose career had been in jeopardy after Achilles and knee injuries.

Before the start of the tournament, Nemcova had spoken of her love for the game and great relief that she had been able to play for the national side for the first time since 1999.

Hana Machova gave her a pass on the perimeter and Nemcova let fly with what ended up being the biggest shot of her career.

"I wasn't thinking about anything when Hana Machova passed me the ball in the corner.

"I started to shake when I scored and we took a one-point advantage. It is a fantastic feeling."

Machova was one of the unsung heroines of the Czech triumph.

She was always on hand to provide a spark.

Machova buried a three-pointer to tie the game at 68-68 with a little over two minutes to play.

She then delivered the pass for Nemcova's unforgettable shot, which was watched back home in the Czech Republic on television.

"We went into the second half with the intention of shooting more from three-point range," she revealed.

"(Ivana) Vecerova, (Eva) Viteckova and Nemcova gave us a good sign when they scored a couple of these baskets.

"We came back into the game after that and the final minutes were very hectic.

"We had a lot of luck when we tied the game after my three-pointer and everything finished after another three-pointer from Eva Nemcova."

"We were a little tired after the last games so we did not play well in the first half," Machova said.

"Russia had a 14-point advantage but we came back. We were always second after Russia but the situation changed today (Sunday).

"We are all very happy."


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