Russia opened their U18 European Championship Women 2010 campaign with a hard-fought 66-58 win over Belgium, in Poprad, Slovakia.
Russia tried to use some size in the paint, but the Belgians turned to quick and technical Lien Demule who penetrated with ease to build an early lead 5:10 for Belgium. However the Russian coach found some motivating words for Alexandra Stolyar who stepped up with a big three and added a layup in the transition to keep the red-whites just one point behind at 12:13 with 1.27 to go in the first quarter.
Russians started the second quarter with a hard defense and Youlia Stepanova's come-from-behind jumper gave a first time lead to her team with 20-19. Sien Devliegher buried a three-pointer to regain the lead for Belgium at 27-26 with little more then three minutes left in the second period while Emmanuella Mayombo closed the second quarter with a jumper off her own steal that left the Belgians ahead 29-27 at the break.
Stepanova continued to be an offensive core of Russian system as she added four consecutive points but Shivens and Mestdagh combined for five points to push Belgium ahead 37-35 with 4:07 to go. Russia stepped up their efforts on both ends and that resulted into 6-0 run that gave the lead back to them with 45-38 before the final quarter.
But Russia continued to dominate in the final quarter until Delmulle ran coast-to-coast and made her own mid-range jumper to reduce the deficit to single digits - 41-50. Mesdagh then sank a three-pointer to reignite the Belgian hopes at 53-58 but Stepanova left no doubts of who the winner would be after scoring four points in last 40 seconds to secure Russia's first victory in the tournament.