Eva Nemcova completed a dream EuroBasket Women for the Czech Republic by burying a three-pointer with just eight seconds remaining to lead her side to a thrilling gold medal game triumph over Russia.
In a rematch of the final two years ago, Russia led by as many as 14 points in the second half in Ankara, Turkey, but the Czechs staged a remarkable comeback to clinch a 72-70 victory.
|Eva Nemcová |
Nemcova, the 32-year-old veteran centre whose career had been jeopardy because of Achilles and knee injuries, battled back to make the squad and rewarded coach Jan Bobrovsky for the faith he showed in her.
Nemcova's biggest moment came near the end when she received a pass from Hana Machova and hit the biggest shot of her career for a 71-70 advantage.
Not known as a long-range gunner, Nemcova's three-pointer was just her third make of the tournament. Going into the game, she was just 1/4 from behind the arc but against Russia she made 2/3.
Russia quickly took the ball up the court after Nemcova's clutch shot, but Oxana Rakhmatulina was called for a turnover, giving the Czechs possession with just three seconds remaining.
Bobrovsky called timeout to discuss the end-of-game strategy, and after his team inbounded the ball, two seconds ticked off the clock before Rakhmatulina was able to foul Eva Viteckova.
The forward missed the first, but made the second and the Russians were unable to get off a desperation shot in time.
Nemcova led her team with 18 points on seven of 15 shooting from the field, including two of three from behind the arc.
Russia lost despite outrebounding the Czechs 41-27 in the game. Maria Stepanova put forth another excellent all-round effort with 18 points and 12 rebounds in a losing effort. She also blocked three shots.
Stepanova had a superb tournament, finishing as the fifth leading scorer at 18 points per game. Her 53.6% shooting from inside the arc was third best in the tournament, as was her rebounding average of 9.6.
Crucially for the Czechs, their high-pressure defence paid dividends as they forced their opponents into 19 turnovers - the biggest coming from Rakhmatulina when Russia were looking for the winning basket near the end.