By David Hein
Eva Viteckova's two foul shots with 11 seconds left gave the Czech Republic a hard-fought 72-70 victory over Belgium, securing the defending champions first place in Group E at the 2007 EuroBasket Women.
Viteckova finished with 22 points, including a reverse lay-up with one minute left and 11 points in the third quarter, to pace the Czechs, while Petra Kulichova collected 14 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots for the winners, who improved to 4-1.
Belgium dropped to 3-2 and could fall to third place in the group should Latvia beat Germany later Tuesday.
|Wauters came up big again for Belgium but it was not enough.|
Ann Wauters did all she could for the Belgians with 22 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.
Kathy Wambe had 13 points, four rebounds and seven assists but also missed eight of her nine foul shots while Anke De Mondt chipped in 13 points.
Belgium led 66-58 with six minutes left but Laurent Buffard elected to rest Wauters for about three minutes and by the time she was back in, the Czechs had fought themselves back into the contest and a gritty effort by Hana Machova and Viteckova's scoring proved enough to collect the win.
“It was a hard game in part because of the games before this. We didn't play that well. I'm just really happy we were able to play our basketball at the end,” said Machova.
“I would love to win the gold medal, but I know it's going to be hard.”
"It was positive for us that we were winning most of the game, but we missed the experience at the end of the game,” said Wauters.
“It would be a mistake for us to say, 'Oh, we lost to the champions of Europe. It was a close game and we did really well. But we have to forget about it now.”
Belgium's dynamic duo of Wauters and Wambe came ready for the top-notch billing as they combined for 15 of the team's 21 points in the first quarter.
Wauters's offensive rebound and put-back from a Wambe missed free throw finished an 8-0 Belgian run to open a 21-15 advantage.
A lay-up at the buzzer by Ivana Vecerova trimmed the margin after one period to 21-17.
The teams went back-and-forth throughout the second though a pair three-pointers by De Mondt helped Belgium to never fall behind before going into the locker-room ahead 38-35.
The Czechs could have been closer – if not ahead – had they not made just seven of 14 foul shots.
Belgium struggled out of the gates in the second half, watching the Czechs use an 11-2 run to pull in front 46-40 but Buffard's troops rushed back with the next six points before opening a 56-51 cushion.
The Czechs would pull even on a three-pointer by Viteckova – her 11th points of the third period – and the game remained dead-locked at 58-58 going into the fourth.
Wauters took over the final quarter early on with a break-away lay-up, offensive rebound putback basket and a blocked shot in an 8-0 start to the fourth for a 66-58 lead.
But Machova rose to the challenge, converting a three-point play, hitting a jumper and dumping the ball into Kulichova for an inside basket.
Machova's tough defense also helped keep Belgium from scoring and Vercerova's jumper even things with 2:28 remaining.