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Spain, Russia Battle For Top Spot

03 October 2007
By Cindy Garcia-Bennett

First place in Group F is up for grabs when undefeated Spain take on Russia in Ortona.

The winner will take on Lithuania in the quarterfinals while the losers must face Ann Wauters and Belgium.

In the back of both coaches' minds will be the knowledge that both sides must play 24 hours later so Russia's Igor Grudin and Spain's Evaristo Perez are certain to spread out the minutes.

Russia did not have Tatiana Shevaleva because of a leg injury but they still bounced back from their defeat to Serbia by rolling over Belarus with Ilona Korstin scoring a game-high 21 points.

The aspect of the game that Russia's players talked about after, however, was the solid defense they played for most of the game.

In Spain's win over France, Amaya Valdemoro sparked the team on both ends of the floor

Ilona Korstin (Russia)
Korstin was on her game against Belarus.
and she is certain to be fired up to take on a Russian side which includes four of her team-mates at CSKA Moscow.

Russian center Maria Stepanova knows that Spain are not a one-woman team. She said: "It's going to be difficult. But we are going to have to find a way to stop Amaya and the other Spanish players, as long as we play good defense we will have a chance."

Last results: Russia thrashed Belarus 87-73, while Spain beat France, 63-53.

Last time out: Spain lost to Russia in the quarterfinal stages at the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil, 60-56.

Key match-up: Maria Stepanova v Anna Montanana- Stepanova is the taller of the two but Montanana has been Spain's most consistent player and has been very effective guarding opposing centers.

Key Stat: Russia outrebounded Belarus, 50-25.

X-Factor: Ilona Korstin has the ability to hit pull-up jump shots and knife into the lane for layups and she has enjoyed two good games in a row.

Speaking out: "It's going to be a beautiful game.  Our past games against them have been very competitive. We have an added motivation to beat them because we have not forgotten our four-point defeat to Russia last year." Spain's Amaya Valdemoro.

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