By Yarone Arbel
The semi-finals brought good news for Anna Montanana, Gunta Basko and Russia's third quarter. The bad news focus on the poor offensive performance by Belarus and Latvia.
The Good News
Anna Steps Up – Belarus stormed the court coming out of the locker rooms. They started the game with a 7-0 run and surprised the Spanish side. The first to wake up for Spain was Anna Montanana. Out of Spain's first 13 points she scored nine of them. Spain held a 13-12 lead and never looked back. The beauty was that her show wasn't over yet. She added only five points until the final buzzer but had a big role in Spain's success. Two assists that equalled five points and two points of her own in the first two minutes of the second half gave Spain their first double-digit lead. Finally, when Belarus got back into the game and
made it a seven point difference early in the fourth, she came off the bench and added three quick points, to make it double-digit again assuring Spain a spot in the finals.
|Though Veremeenko managed some decent numbers against Spain her team-mates struggled.|
Basko's Character – In basketball history there have been a few memorable stories of players who played in big games despite an injury. Most of them are of players who eventually won that game, but there should be a place for the other side too. Gunta Basko played from the 17th minute of the semi-final with Russia with one hand. She tried to pass and shoot with her right arm when she came back but quickly saw it wouldn't be possible. It was easy to spot from the stands the pained expressions on her face whenever she tried to use her right arm. The cold history books will tell you that Latvia scored only 36 points in the semi-finals of EuroBasket Women 2007, but people should remember that we saw a heroic performance from an athlete who wasn't willing to give up.
Russia's Third Quarter – Since their loss to Serbia the Russians haven't dropped a game and won four in a row coming to the finals. In three of them we saw the same scenario. Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia managed to put up a great fight in the first half, but look at what happened in the third quarter. 27-9 against Belarus, 24-15 against Lithuania and yesterday 20-8 against Latvia. The fourth team who lost but don't fit this pattern is their finals opponent Spain. They too lost by a 15 point difference, but held on for three full quarters before Russia made the run in the fourth. Hopefully tonight they will survive at least a few more minutes and we'll enter the last minutes of the finals without knowing yet who's going to win.
The Bad News
Latvia Lacked Support – In the quarters one of the best performances was to see Latvia's supporting cast step up after the injury of Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, led by Gunta Basko. In the semi's once Basko went down they went down with her. Out of 23 field goal shots in the second half by Latvia the injured Jekabsone-Zogota and Basko took nine. That's the normal ratio, as during the tournament the duo took around 40% of Latvia's shots, but when they were injured others had to step up. The Latvian coach said himself after the game, the supporting cast probably didn't believe they can win the big Russia without their big stars.
Missing In Action – Belarus is probably the tournament's most impressive team when it comes to spreading it around, be it minutes or points. It showed best in the semi's against Spain when Anastasiya Veremeenko played 29 minutes while no less than eight players played between 17:30 and 20:30. Throughout the tournament it was easy to spot the deep bench when various players stepped up in different games. Nevertheless there were three players who carried the team more than others in their great run here. Center Yelena Leuchanka who averaged 11.5 ppg on 53.4% from the field, power forward Anastasiya Veremeenko who averaged 9.6 ppg in amazing 70.8% from the field and Katsiaryna Snytsina with 8.3 ppg on 35.7% shooting. Against Spain all of them finished with lower numbers. Leuchanka and Snytsina were the more extreme with a combined eight points and two out of 11 from the field. Veremeenko was probably the best player as she scored nine points and added 11 rebounds and five blocks, still the most accurate shooter in the tournament was only three of eight that night.