Slovakia 90 Belgium 82

23.09.2003

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Zuzana Zirkova had 28 points
Slovakia are emerging as serious medal contenders at the European Championships after marching into the quarter-finals on Tuesday from Group B.

Their 90-82 win over Belgium means that Peter Kovacik's side have three wins from their four games and secures their place in the final eight.

Zuzana Zirkova poured in a game-high 28 points after making nine of 16 shots from the floor, including three of seven from three point range.

If Slovakia are going to beat the better sides in the later stages of this tournament, however, they are going to have to execute better down the stretch, making their free throws and getting better shots.

They asserted themselves early, building a 28-13 first-quarter lead.

Belgium trimmed that to 44-35 by half-time but the Slovaks re-established control and led 66-50 by the end of the third.

Kovacik's troops left that door open in the closing minutes of this game, though.

They missed several free throws, including three from point guard Monika Barenyiova.

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Kathy Wambe
The Belgians were able to pull to within six points and could have closed the gap even further had Kathy Wambe not travelled with a couple of minutes on the clock.

They had another chance to reduce the arrears.

Belgian Anke De Mondt made two free throws with a minute and 39 seconds remaining to make it 82-76, and Slovakia, trying to push the ball up the floor, turned the ball over.

But Wambe, who played almost 31 minutes and scored 17 points, committed maybe the costliest of her country's 23 turnovers on the night by dribbling the ball into the lane and then then dragging her foot as she looked to find an open team-mate.

That handed the ball back to Slovakia.

A pair off Ann Wauters free throws allowed Belgium to stay close at 85-79, and Barenyiova then made just one off two from the line.

Belgium caught a break when Wambe was fouled and the clock stopped in the final minute, giving them a chance to lower the deficit to just five but Wambe missed the first of her two free throws and Slovakia held on to a 86-80 lead.

They would make four more free throws down the stretch to seal a 90-82 win.

Slovakia were silver medallists in 1997 but only finished eighth two years ago.

They are looking dangerous, however, especially as the only team so far to have beaten pre-tournament favourites Russia.

Belgium had their chances and will be regretting their inability to make the most of their possessions.

Belgium can still make it to the quarter-finals, though, if they beat Hungary to the fourth place in Group B.

The Hungarians face a daunting task against Russia on Tuesday and then take on Slovakia on Wednesday.

Belgium have the luxury of taking on the Ukraine, who have yet to win a game, in their final group game.


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