By Yarone Arbel
The first set of the quarter-finals showed two great players with great character in the winning team, one big message from Latvia, a lack of killer instinct in the former champs and a scoring drought that was too much to handle.
The Good News
Big Minutes Snytsina - In any sport there are very few athletes who can step up in crunch time and upgrade their game. After watching Belarus' quarter-final game we know that Katsiaryna Snytsina is one of them. When the last quarter started she had only three points and was one out of seven from the field and no rebounds. She entered the court with 6:39 to play right after Belarus tied the score, and that was the substitution that changed the game. It took her one minute to get in the rhythm and then it started. Four points in a row to go with a big rebound. A short set back with a missed shot and a blocked shot were soon fixed. A big block on Jana Vesela on the other end kept Belarus on top by five.
Snytsina also connected on three out of four free throw shots in the last 37 seconds that secured the win. A total of seven points, three rebounds and one block in those 6:39 is what made the difference for Belarus.
|Liene Jansone stepped up for Latvia in their quarter-final with France.|
Money Anete – The top scorer and passer of the championship, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota of Latvia, got injured early in the quarter-finals against France. It hurt her game and she finished with only 12 points (Tournament low), on four out of 14 shooting from the field and two assists (another tournament low). All of that didn't matter a bit though when she went to the line in the most stressful moment in Latvian women's basketball history. France made an amazing come back in the last minutes and had the momentum deep in their pocket. With 14 seconds on the clock the gap was only two and Anete went to the line. 16 seconds before that Gunta Basko had missed two free-throws in a row. Latvia has never played the semi-final and lost to France in the previous EuroBasket in a big game. How much more stress can you ask for? Anete made it easy. Both shots didn't even touch the rim. The classic "Nothing but Net" just when it mattered. When a player can handle such pressure so easily, that is very unique.
Team Latvia – When you have a player like Anete Jekobsone-Zogota on your team, surely one of the best players in Europe and the top scorer and passer here, it's easy for some people to consider Latvia as a team based on one big star player. Her injury and the below average performance which followed proved, if anybody needed a proof, this doubting her team-mates would be a mistake. Basko tied her tournament high and went seven points over her average. Liene Jansone was one point shy of her tournament high and scored five more points than her average here, but her dominance and great moves in the paint was something you needed to see with your own eyes. Zane Tamane was another inside player who proved Latvia can hurt you in the paint. She set her tournament high with 12 points, and doubled her points average. Latvia is for real and the fact they have so many good players that can "hide" until needed means you shouldn't be surprised if they go all the way.
The Bad News
No Killer Instinct – Belarus took over the quarter-finals against the Czechs in the second quarter, but the former champs had a big chance to strike back. They didn't use it and that was a sign of their approaching loss. With 5:11 to go in the third Yelena Leuchanka made it 39-33 for Belarus but the next time her team scored again was with 6:54 left in the game. The best the Czechs do with eight minutes of no points at all by Belarus was an 8-0 run and a two point lead. It was clear Belarus would wake up at some point and once they did it was too easy to recover.
Czech Drought – Not only did the Czechs not take care of business when Belarus went to sleep, once taking that two point lead the former champs went to sleep themselves. With 1:22 left in the third Jana Vesela made it 41-39 for the Czechs but the next time they scored was only with 2:36 to play in the game. That's almost nine minutes, the most important nine minutes in the championship, the Czechs didn't score.
No Go Outside – France came to the quarter-finals after going zero out of 10 on three-point shots in the previous game. By the end of the first half against Latvia they were down 28-18, and their missed shot streak was still on. Zero out of seven from long range in that half was one of the main reasons they scored so few points. With another missed shot at the end of their second game in the qualifying round they reached a total of 18 missed three-point shots in a row. France had to chase after Latvia the entire second half. In that period they finally set their eye on the target and hit a decent six out of 13, but it was too late.