GROUP BA near-hurricane pace in their game was not enough for Slovenia against a big and physical Sweden side in the U18 European Championship Women 2010 in Poprad, Slovakia. The Scandinavians emerged 70-67winners in a very tough game to record their first victory in the tournament.
Amanda Zahui scored 27 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and was the key factor in a final Swedish comeback in the fourth quarter.
Slovenian guard Nika Baric did what she loves about basketball in the first quarter but it just didn't work. She and her teammates played fast, dribbled skillfully, moved the ball but missed open shots from behind the arc, while Sweden used pushed the ball inside where the physical prowess of center . Zahui was too much for the Slovenians.
She collected 10 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in the first five minutes helping Sweden to build a 10-2 lead. Tjasa Gortnar stepped up for Slovenia and scored six points in the first quarter to keep her team close in the score.
Baric made key shots from behind the arc to start the second quarter and Ziva Macura joined her with an off-the-glass triple. Slovenia tried to double team Zahui in the paint every time she received the ball inside, but she scored a putback basket and added a layup to extend the gap to 25 -19 with 5:52 remaining in the first half.
Baric played with the heart and inspired a Slovenian comeback when she scored five consecutive points and then assisted Eva Rupnik to get her team within striking distance at 26-29.
Gortnar then made two free throws that gave an one point lead to Slovenia with less than a minute to go, but a cold-blooded Ellen Nystrom nailed the three pointer that gave the lead back to Sweden 33-32 just before the halftime buzzer.
Sweden started the second half with Zahui on the bench and a faster rotation, which turned out to favour the Slovenian run'n'gun style of basketball. Even with a smaller and faster rotation on court the Swedish defense system couldn't compete against plays which the Slovenians executed for Rebeka Abramovic. She was left unmarked for three consecutive open three pointer from the corner to make it 50-37 for Slovenia with only a few moments to go in the third quarter.
Sweden sent Zahui back on the court for the final quarter and her basket plus foul got Sweden as close as 54-57 with seven minutes left and emotions running high.
Baric showed her dribbling and penetration skills to a left handed layup and on the next possession she assisted Abramovic for her fourth triple from five efforts, which pushedSlovenians ahead 63-56.
But that was the wake up call for Sweden and they responded with an 11-3 run of their own with Zahui unstoppable inside to take a 67-66 lead.
At the death Tina Jakovina could still save the game for Slovenia but she missed her outside shot and seconds later Swedish players and the bench were celebrating their first victory in Poprad.