By Cindy Garcia-Bennett, Novi SadRussia captured a bronze medal at the UMCOR U18 European Championship Women on Sunday after coming back from a nine-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to win 71-65 over Poland in Novi Sad.
The Russians, whose title dreams were ended by Serbia in Saturday's semi-finals, found themselves playing catch-up with 10 minutes to go and made the crucial plays to prevail.
Russia stepped up their defense and limited Poland to just two points in the opening four minutes of the final period to cut the deficit 53-51.
|Natalia Vieru Came up big on offense and defense for Russia.|
With Poland teetering, Anastasia Logunova's three-point play gave Russia a 54-53 lead with less than six minutes left to play.
Team-mate Daria Ezhova's three-ball extended their lead.
Poland did not give up.
Agnieszka Kaczmarczyk's three-pointer reduced the deficit 65-62 with 52 seconds remaining, but Russia’s Raisa Lenshina replied with a jump-shot for a five-point cushion.
After Weronika Idzak missed a layup with 30 seconds remaining for Poland, Natalia Vieru, one of the star performers at this tournament for Russia, killed Poland's hopes with a basket down low to put her team into an insurmountable 69-62 advantage with seven seconds on the clock.
Poland led 30-26 at half-time after Idzak scored 10 of her game-high 20 points.
Russia came out of the changing rooms fresh and ready to run, and reeled off six straight points to take a 32-30 lead.
However, unsportsmanlike fouls called on Tatiana Abrikosova and Elena Pavlova put the Poles on the free throw line and helped them go into the final quarter with a 51-42 advantage.
That set the stage for Russia’s impressive finish.
Vieru led the Russians in scoring with 18 points while she also pulled down 10 rebounds.
Russia were better shooting the ball, as they were 24 of 57 (42.1%) from the floor while their opponents were 22 of 70 (31.4%).