|09 July 2009|
Poland held off Lithuania 73-70 in a nail-biter before over a thousand screaming fans in Gdynia to go 1-0 in Group B.
It was a back-and-forth game throughout with neither team able to pull away by double digits.
The score seesawed through the second half till Poland managed to pull out a win showing a steady hand and even steadier nerves at the free-throw line.
Guard Zaneta Durak hit four of those clutch free throws. Two came at the :54 mark to give Poland the lead for good at 70-68. She then hit two more with :06 left to put her team up five and seal the victory.
Lithuania had their chances down the stretch to tie or even win the game, but Poland played good defense while avoided fouling.
Durak wanted to give credit to the extra support Poland received from the stands.
|Anete Steinberga had a game-high 14 boards in Latvia's win|
"Like in any sport, the fans are very important, but for us today they were like the sixth person," said the guard, who led her team with 16 points and four steals.
The story of the game could have very easily been "Poland edges past Gintare Petronyte".
The Lithunian center dominated the game, especially on the offensive end where she was one basket shy of accounting for half of her team's points. She wracked up 33 points over the course of the contest to go along with eight boards, two assists and two blocks.
"We tried to shut her down of course, but she is a very good player. She is very difficult to defend," said Durak on her team's efforts to reign in the 2008 FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year.
Poland, while not finding the key to shutting down Petronyte, did a good job on her team-mates, forcing 22 turnovers.
They also got contributions from multiple players other than Durak. Center Ewelina Gala came up big with 15 points, nine boards and two assists while Agnieszka Kaczmarczyk added 14 points and five rebounds.
Latvia Ease Past Czechs
Latvia cruised to a 67-53 win over the Czech Republic to start their European Championship quest.
Ainars Cukste's team was led by Elina Babkina's 16 points and four assists. Baiba Eglite seconded her effort with 14 points while Anete Steinberga cleaned up on the boards pulling in 14 to add to four points.
Latvia never looked like they were in danger of letting the game slip away, and the Czechs never were ahead on the scoreboard.
Latvia was up 24-11 after the first quarter and had strapped the Czech Republic's leading scorer, Katerina Novotna, with three fouls effectively putting an end to her run of nine points over the first ten minutes. She would come back to play 14 minutes more, but she would not score again.
Baiba Eglite and Elina Babkina paced Latvia to a 41-24 lead at halftime with ten points a piece.
While Latvia scored the ball the regularity, the Czechs shot a poor 26% over the game's first twenty minutes.
The Czechs opened the third quarter cold, only scoring four points in the first five minutes while Latvia extended their lead to 50-31.
Two free throws by Katerina Sedlakova and a bank shot by Jana Stehilkova shaved the Latvian lead to 13 (50-37) with under three to play.
But Latvia would go on a seven-to-one run, capped by a Diana Ozolina three pointer, to go into the fourth with a 19 point advantage (57-38).
Liga Surkusa swished an uncontested jumper from the top of the key, giving her team their largest lead of the game at 21 points (61-40) with under eight to play.
The Czechs played hard till the end, cutting the lead to 14 at the final buzzer.
That being said, they never threatening to turn the tables on the Latvians.