France took the edge over title rivals Serbia & Montenegro in the opening day of the U18 European Championship Women in Budapest, starting the tournament with a 74-68 win over the Balkan side.
Two of the best teams at this championship, both sides provided the best game of the first day and spectators have already commented that the Final may even see a rematch.
Serbia & Montenegro came to Budapest on the back of their silver medal win at the recent U19 World Championship in Tunisia and almost all of the team are in the line-up for the European event. Starting center Jelena Dublivic is missing from the squad, however, which hurt down the stretch today as France out-rebounded Serbia & Montenegro 37-28.
|Adrijana Knezevic (Serbia & Montenegro)|
France had the better start, pulling away for a 12-6 lead after 5 minutes. By the end of the first period Serbia had woken up and mainly thanks to dogged defence and Dunja Prcic in offence, they went ahead at the beginning of the second period.
Despite heavy pressure from France, Serbia & Montenegro held on to the lead for the next 20 minutes and only late in the 3rd quarter did they start to tire and look shaky. France came charging back and with Sandrine Gruda dominating inside were able to retake the lead with one quarter left to play.
Serbia & Montenegro couldn’t cope with France’s new-found energy and soon found themselves facing a bigger and bigger margin. With a couple of minutes remaining they managed to narrow the margin to six but with the clock running down couldn’t make the last push necessary.
Adrijana Knezevic topped for Serbia & Montenegro with 18 points. Sandrine Gruda answered for France with 20 points and 15 rebounds, aided by Anne-Sophie Pagnier who added 19 points.
In the other Group B game, Germany started their Championship campaign with a win over Poland, 72-66. Germany led from the very start and held on until mid-way through the fourth quarter when Poland struck back and went five points ahead.
|Romy Bär (Germany) |
In Group A hosts Hungary pipped Turkey 44-43 at the end of a turn-over-strewn defensive battle. The Turks were bitterly disappointed, having held on to the lead for 39 ½ minutes.
Slovak Republic also beat Italy only in the final seconds after a tight game. Dasa Rajecka (SVK) and Benedetta Bagnara (ITA) went head to head on points scoring: Rajecka finished as top scorer of the day with 28 points, closely followed by Bagnara on 27. Rajecka added 17 rebounds to her tally.
In Group C, Lithuania beat Croatia 67-60 and title-holders Russia took care of business, beating Bulgaria 68-51. Russia didn’t look quite so strong in their opening game as in recent years and may have to improve their form if they want to repeat last year’s gold medal winning performance. Elena Gogiya topped for the Russians with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
|Elena Gogiya (Russia)|
The first day for Group D has already made very clear the intentions of two of the four teams – a secure Quarter-Final Round spot. The Czech Republic made light weather of Greece, easily winning 83-50 with coach Milan Veverka running the entire Czech bench.
Spain demolished Belgium 77-34; star point guard Silvia Dominguez pushed the Spanish fast-break forward again and again whereas the Belgians had few answers to the tough defence they faced. Spain and Czech Republic will meet in a show-down on Sunday.