Kozani Semi-Finals Full Of Promise

21 August 2010

Ten days after it all started it all comes down to the lucky four teams of today's semi-finals, the ones who can still pursue their dream of becoming the 2010 U16 European Championship Women champions in Greece.

The first Semi-Final, Saturday, is a big match-up between Russia and France, two sides who have already left their mark during the tournament in Ptolemaida and Kozani.

The two adversaries met before in this tournament, during the Qualifying Round. Russia defeated France 70-54 after scoring big in the paint and on fastbreaks but that success means little and nothing can guarantee that they will repeat this today. On that evidence though the French will surely want to tighten their defense and reduce turnovers to lockdown the Russian offense. France eliminated last year's champions Spain in the Quarter-Finals and seem to have what it takes to go all the way.

7. Olivia Epoupa (France)
Olivia Epoupa must surely be one of the candidates in the MVP race

The second Semi-Final also promises to be a basketball classic between Croatia and Serbia. Croatia coasted from win to win and even handed Russia their only defeat of the U16 European Championship Women so far.

Serbia struggled at the beginning of the competition but have improved from game to game. In the Quarters they ended Turkey's medal hopes. Croatia is a tough match-up for them however, in their Preliminary Round meeting between the two the Serbs were well outplayed 67-90.

Croatia's high octane offense is hard to stop but it is not impossible as Belgium proved in the Quarter-Finals, where Croatia still won but only just.

While Croatia, France, Russia and Serbia strive for the title, some of their key players are legitimate candidates for MVP honours.

France's Olivia Epoupa is one of the names on that list. The lightning quick point guard averaged 18.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists. She also had 3.5 steals per game.

When you look at the individual stats of the Russian team it is hard to say who can be their MVP. The Russians can rely on almost all of their players to contribute significantly. Within a balanced team power forward Alexandra Marchenkova showed balanced performances of her own. She has averaged 10.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 steals in just 23.1 minutes per game. She is actually the only Russian played to average points in double digits. Albina Razheva (power forward) is close to that mark with her 9.6 points. She also grabbed 7.0 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game.

The Croatians were able to sum up pretty impressive stats during the tournament. Ruzica Dzankic (small forward) is leading the team in scoring (14.3 points). She leads the competition in field goal percentage (52.9 percent). Her teammates Ana-Marija Begic (11.2 points, 8.6 rebounds) and Lana Packovski (11.2 points, 4.5 assists) are also part of Croatia's offensive firepower.

Serbian forward Natasa Kovacevic has played a very impressive tournament. It seems there is nothing she can't do. She averages 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds while she is a deadly three-point shooter. Her 3.7 steals per game are a tournament high.

Their teams did not reach the Semi-Finals but there is no doubt that Kourtney Treffers (Netherlands), Marlés Balart (Spain), Antonia Delaere, Heleen Adams (both Belgium) and Merve Aydin as well as Cansu Köksal (both Turkey) have had some memorable performances at the U16 European Championship Women 2010.



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