The Semi-Final stage is set for Saturday at the U18 European Championship Women in Budapest following today’s ultimate Quarter-Final Round action. First up, Serbia & Montenegro and France will face each other in a re-run of their tournament opener while Spain will meet Czech Republic again following their Preliminary Round encounter.
France and Czech Republic won the previous games and are determined to repeat, however, Spain is looking for another medal following last year’s silver and Serbia & Montenegro are bent on a podium place after an absence of almost 18 years. Their last medal at this age-group was a bronze for Yugoslavia in 1988.
|Maja Miljkovic (Serbia & Montenegro) |
Serbia & Montenegro came through the Quarter-Final Round unbeaten and although today’s final result was closer than recent games, the Serbs experienced no real worries against their Hungarian hosts, winning 63-53. Coach Zeljko Vukicevic ran his entire bench giving almost every player double-figure minutes and allowing his starters some well-deserved rest.
Miljana Musovic still managed 15 points in 20 minutes of court-time, most of it coming from fast breaks. She also dished 5 assists. For Hungary Dora Horti was the only player to make any impression on the Serb defence – she had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The excitement of the day came from the Russia – Spain face-off for the second Group E Semi-Final place. Russia came back from 16 points down early in the second half to within one point with one minute left on the clock. Patricia Arguello saved Spain by hitting a key trey to put her team four points up with 27 seconds to play. 20 seconds later she hit one free-throw to seal the win.
|Elena Beglova (Russia) |
Spain began the game strongly and slowly built up a solid lead. As ever, it was the back court Dominguez/Carbo/Arguello trio which led the Spanish attack and at half time Russia trailed by 12 points, 36-24.
The Russians refused to let the Semi-Final dream fade, however, and coming back after the break fought their way back into the game. They started the 3rd period with a 8-0 run which shook up the Spaniards and showed some gaping holes in their defence. Spain held on for the remainder of the quarter and almost looked safe but within two minutes of the fourth period Russia were within four, 48-44 and Spain were jittery.
The game went end-to-end for the next minutes with Russia coming ever closer but thanks to Arguello’s heroics in the final minute, Spain was saved and go through. Arguello finished with 22 points on 68% shooting from behind the arc and Silvia Dominguez and Anna Carbo added 12 apiece. For Russia Elena Gogiya put on another stalwart performance: she had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
France had a sticky start against Slovak Republic with both sides finding difficulty in scoring in the first 10 minutes. France soon shook off their problems and pulled ahead, still keeping the Slovaks to single figure scoring in the second period and after 20 minutes had built up a 31-16 advantage.
|Jennifer Digbeu (France) |
France also ran the entire bench for most of the game, but their main strength came from inside the paint. Jennifer Digbeu and the omnipresent Sandrine Gruda dominated against their Slovak rivals, Digbeu putting up 12 points and 9 rebounds and Gruda 13 points. By the fourth quarter France was cruising. The final score 61-39.
In the last game of the day the Czech team managed to hold off an inspired Lithuania despite a very slack and sloppy performance. Coach Milan Veverka was very disappointed with his team’s lack of concentration and had expected a better effort from his players even though the game was quite meaningless with regard to their final position in the group.
The Czechs go into the Semi-Finals are the only unbeaten team of the championship, but will have to step up again on Saturday, in offence and in defence, if they want to go further. Lithuania, however, gave their all, despite knowing that they could only finish in fourth place.
In tonight’s game they more than doubled the number of points scored in the first Quarter-Final game against France. Greta Luksyte led the scoring with 16 points and Elge Sarapaite added 15. Tereza Kuthanova and Katerina Elhotova both scored 13 for the Czechs.