Slovak Republic 65 Italy 54
Both teams started the Championship with a loss yesterday and neither wanted to continue in that trend. Nerves were very much in evidence during the first half and in particular the first quarter, as both teams turned the ball over countless times and were unable to covert any steals into points on the scoreboard.
At first, good defence from the Slovak team gave the Italians a lot of trouble and it took Italy 5 minutes to score a second basket. After 6 minutes the Slovak Rep. led by 12, 17-5, but then were unable to score for over 2 minutes. Italy were still unable to take advantage, however.
After the first break Italy started to look a lot more active and aggressive and after the 14th minute gradually pegged their way back into the game. By the end of the half they had reduced the margin to 3, 31-28.
The Slovak Rep. returned fresh for the second half and immediately broke away from Italy while holding their opponents scoreless for 4 minutes. Lucia Kupcikova and Silvia Kloudova were both very good inside for the Slovak team, stopping big Eva Giauro from getting her hands on the ball. Italy kept trying to come back into the game but could never quite make the decisive push.
In the final 10 minutes the Slovaks experienced a scoring drought, but as the Italians were unable take advantage their lead and the victory remained safe. Itally managed to reduce the margin to 5, before the Slovaks pulled away once again. Final score 65-54.
Spain 63 Czech Republic 70
In Quimper the Czech Republic have shown themselves to be the team to beat after 2 days, this time with a much narrower win over Spain. Sor far they seem to be the strongest side in Group B.
The Czechs started once again with excellent defence, almost completely shutting down the Spanish attack while scoring with relative ease in their own basket. At the first break they already had a 9 point lead which they had stretched to 15 by the half. Lenka Vetrovkova had a second strong game and her teammates used her to the max. inside, regularly feeding her the ball. She finished the game with 15 points. When Vetrovkova wasn’t available the Czech guards poured in the points from outside.
In the second half Spain picked up their game. Already much better than yesterday, the players started pushing the ball up the court and putting pressure on their Czech opponents. The Czechs were never really in trouble though and kept hitting form behind the arc to keep themselves safe. In the final minutes Spain missed free-throws which would have brought them close, while the Czechs put theirs away to extend their advantage.
Christina García and Paula Palomares again played well for Spain, and received support today from Aina Denti (12 points and 9 rebounds).
Finland 61 Ukraine 95
By tip-off time this afternoon, Ukraine had got over their loss to hosts France yesterday whereas Finland’s win over Italy seemed to have drained the players completely.
Ukraine quite simply swamped the Finns in the first half, allowing them to score a pitiful 21 points, while they themselves romped ahead, running the fast break and hitting 3s at will. In offence they were unstoppable and by the end of 20 minutes they had clocked up an enormous 60 points, with Olexandra Gorbunova already on 19 and Lada Kovalenko on 12.
In the second half there was very little that the shell-shocked Finns could do, apart from damage mitigation. Nevertheless, they still tried to hustle and put pressure on the Ukrainian team and even in the dying seconds they didn’t let their heads hang. By the end of the game they had reduced the margin to 34, however the Ukrainians had also slowed, running the bench and practicing the press-break with the less-experienced players.
Ukraine’s Gorbunova had 28 points by the end of 40 minutes - she leads all scorers at the U20 Championship.
Poland 77 Belgium 60
Poland came out hungry today having lost yesterday evening to the Hungarians and quickly made it clear who was the stronger of the two teams on the court. Belgium was looking to repeat on yesterday’s victorious performance against Spain but seemed a bit lost and absent in the first quarter and couldn’t reply to Poland’s constant pressure. Poland finished the first quarter already up 19, 32:13.
Belgium’s bench and loud fans did the motivation trick again at the beginning of the 2nd period and the Belgian team woke up and started playing. Unfortunately, Eveline Callens, arguably Belgium’s best player went out with an injury in the 13th minute, never to return, which dampened the newly lit fire. The players kept fighting, however, and managed to keep the Polish lead to under 20 points at the half, 50:32.
Poland took advantage inside with Callens out of the game and Izabela Piekarska and Karolina Piotrkiewicz again had a big game.
Nonetheless, the 3rd quarter was a complete disaster for both teams, as neither scored in double figures and the spectators were subjected to 10 minutes of turnovers and missed shots.
The last 10 minutes saw a distinct improvement, at least in the fortunes of the Polish team. The Belgians played with their second 5, who were quickly overrun. With 4 minutes the game was essentially over. Poland eventually won 77-60.
France 67 Russia 66
In a nailbiting finish to the second day in Vannes, France came back from a 10 point deficit at the end of the 3rd quarter to win by 1 point in the dying seconds. With the game tied at 66-66 and 7 seconds on the clock Aurélie Cibert sank one of two free-throws to clinch victory for the home side.
The game was tight and very physical from the very start. France had the upper hand in the first quarter as the Russians had difficulty scoring for over 2 minutes. Guards Marina Karpunina and Svetlana Makhlina kept the Russian team together though, both seeking the gaps and going hard to the hoop. Karpunina also did a great job picking up rebounds and the Russian side was dominant on the boards at both ends, often getting 2nd and 3rd shot attempts. The first quarter finished 20:18.
Despite tough defence from the home side, the Russians took the lead early in the second quarter and didn’t relinquish it until the final minute of the game. Consecutive 3-pointers from Elena Danilotchkina highlighted the problems that the French faced, that they could not score from outside. France had no outside threat against the tight Russian zone and as a result the centres had real trouble getting the ball. By the end of the first half, Russia was all over the court, rebounding, fast-breaking and scoring. At half time Russia led 28:40.
The 3rd period saw more of the same. Russia had all the second chances And the French centres were swamped inside. Captain Elodie Godin was helpless and had a very frustrated and disappointing performance before Coach Denis eventually took her out.
The 3rd period saw some great end-to-end basketball with nice moves at both baskets. France gradually began to attack more and got more into their game. By the end of the quarter they had reduced the Russian lead to 10, 47:57.
Russia opened the scoring in the final 10 minutes, but after that France began to take control of the game. Russia still rebounded well, but became very nervous in offence. Karpunina suffered several cramps in her calf muscles and was not nearly so effective. Paoline Salagnac tied the score with a 3-pointer with 4 minutes to go and for the next three minutes the game went end to end. Marina Kuzina hit 2/2 free-throws with 1:45 left on the clock to take the score to 64:66. Amélie Pochet answered inside for two and then it came down to Aurélie Cibert to sink one of two free-throws in the last seconds to keep France unbeaten.