The successful showing of Croatia is one of the most inspiring stories of the U16 European Championship Women 2010 in Ptolemaida and Kozani. Already qualified for the Quarter-Final Round, Croatia's run for glory seems to not be over yet.
Croatia were still in Division B in 2009 but only a year later they are one of the best teams in the top category.
"We are an offense team," points out coach Zeljko Ciglar. "We like to play offense and really push the ball in the fastbreak." The numbers support his words: By averaging 76.2 points per game Croatia are ranked second in the tournament in points scored while 46.4 shooting percentage from the field ranks them irst. Additionally the Croatians are the best shooting team from outside, shooting at 36.8 percent.
The flip side to their fast paced game is the fact that Croatia allowed their opponents 62.6 points per game. Only three teams gave up more points.
With that enormous firepower what is really possible for Croatia in the 2010 U16 European Championship Women?
"I don't know what's possible," Ciglar says adding that he hopes the success in Ptolemaida and Kozani will contribute to improve the situation for women's basketball in Croatia.
"Croatia is a small country so it is hard to find players. We are back in Division A after five years. Maybe now the situation will start to get better."
The outlook for his team at the U16 European Championship Women 2010 sure looks bright. Croatia already booked a spot in the next round as a big win over Russia secured a berth in the Quarter-Finals. With four wins and just one loss (in their opener against France) they really rolled through the tournament.
Ciglar can count on his key players to deliver good performances in every single game. Ruzica Dzankic (1.79m, SF) surely is the centrepiece. She leads the team with 17.4 points per game, also adding 7.2 rebounds per game. Dzankic's field goal percentage of 56.1 percent is the best in the whole competition. She also leads the U16 European Championship Women in minutes per game (35.6).
Other contributors are Ana-Marija Begic and Ivana Tikvic who both play at the Center position. Begic (1.90 m) averaged 7.2 rebounds and 12.6 points so far. She has a good shooting touch from outside and has also shown her good court vision with 2.2 assists per game. Tikvic (1.89 m) averaged a rock solid 7.8 points and 8.0 rebounds. With 3.2 blocked shot per game she ranked second after five tournament games.
Guard Lana Packovski in another key asset to the success of Croatia. Listed as Shooting Guard she clearly proved her playmaking ability in this tournament. With 5.2 assists per game she sets up her teammates perfectly. She can also score (average 11.6 points). Russia had to learn the hard way about her offense skills as Packovski posted 23 points against them.
In the Quarter-Final Round, possible match-ups with Spain or Belgium promise to be tremendous basketball games. No matter what opponent, one can be sure that Croatia will play full throttle on offense.
Their likely motto "to attack is a way of defending" will come to an ultimate test in the next stage.