Poland, Bulgaria and Sweden enjoyed winning starts to the additional qualifying round for the EuroBasket Women on Wednesday.
The Poles, who narrowly missed out on automatic qualification, won 68-63 in Group A at Finland but they found themselves in danger of being upset at the end of the third quarter after Taru Tuukkanen buried a three-pointer to give the hosts a 52-46 lead.
And it got worse at the start of the fourth quarter when the Finns extended their lead to 55-46 on a three-point play by Reeta Piipari.
That’s when Poland caught fire and it was no surprise that Agnieszka Bibrzycka provided the spark.
Bibrzycka, a member of Spartak Moscow’s EuroLeague Women winning side in 2006-07, connected from three-point range to make it 55-49.
Poland would go on to outscore their opponents 22-11 in the quarter to silence the 450 onlookers in Vantaa.
Finland did not play well in the last period, but they did make the Poles sweat at the end after Piipari made a pair of free throws with eight seconds left to reduce the visitors’ lead to 65-63.
They were unable to come up with the steal on the ensuing inbounds pass, though, and Bibrzycka drained another three-pointer – her fifth of the night – to seal the victory.
She finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Tuukkanen had a game-high 28 and eight boards in defeat.
Bulgaria thrashed Hungary 66-52 in Group B, Albena Branzova doing much of the damage with 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
The Bulgarians, playing at home in Pernik, opened up a 35-27 half-time lead and extended the advantage to as many as 14 points in the third quarter.
Hungary battled back and twice closed to within four points in the third, but they would get no closer.
Bulgaria cruised to victory in the fourth, leading by as many as 18 points in the period.
In Group C action, Sweden defeated Ukraine 72-63.
Louice Halversson scored 17 points to pace the Swedes, who did much of their damage at the free throw line by making 24 of 27 (88.8%) on the night.
Ukraine started well and seized an 18-9 lead in the first quarter, but they were unable to sustain it.
Olexandra Gorbunova and Yuliya Yakhina each had 14 points in defeat for Ukraine.