Home side Turkey nearly pulled off the upset of the 2005 EuroBasket Women in Izmir on Saturday night against European champions Russia.
In 2001 Turkey hosted EuroBasket Men and the national team used that event to launch themselves onto the international scene as a major force, winning the silver medal.
Although it is too early to talk of more Turkish medals, the women's team in 2005 seem to be following the same path as their male colleagues.
Turkey are debutants at this level, having never qualified for the final round of EuroBasket Women. Nonetheless, they served notice in their opening game, an 81-69 defeat over Serbia & Montenegro, that despite their lack of experience, they would be a force to be reckoned with.
|Svetlana Abrosimova contributed 16 points in Russia's win|
When Russia jumped out to a 12-0 in the opening 3 minutes, it looked as though form would be served and Russia would cruise to a simple victory.
Maria Stepanova caused Turkey all sorts of the problems in the opening half as she lit up the scoreboard for 18 points and also dished 5 assists.
By the midway point, Russia led 54-43 and were in complete control of the contest.
Turkish coach Cem Akdag promised both fans and media before the tournament that his side would play with energy and emotion. So far he has lived up to that promise as Turkey have looked to push the ball at every opportunity and run their opponents off the floor.
The strategy began to pay off in the 3rd period as his side went on a 22-11 tear which saw the scores tied at 65-65 after 30 minutes.
Turkish center Nevriye Yilmaz hit 11 of her side'S 22 points in the quarter, including a jump shot at the buzzer to tie up the game.
Turkey then opened the final period with a pair of three-pointers and suddenly an upset looked very much on the cards.
But Russia have proven themselves to be Europe's best team in recent years for a reason, and they had an answer for every Turkish basket down the stretch.
Olga Arteshina had a quiet opening 30 minutes but came alive in the final 10 minutes. She scored all 8 of her 10 points in the quarter, including a three-pointer with 1:48 remaining which opened up a 4-point lead, 86-82.
Turkey answered with a Saziye Ivgevin 3-pointer, but it was Stepanova who came up with the game breaker.
With her team clinging to a 1-point lead and time winding down, the 202 cm center took the ball strong to the hoop and converted despite being fouled by Yilmaz.
The ensuing free throw, Stepanova's 27th point of the game, restored Russia's 4-point cushion and was enough for them to take the victory.
Stepanova proved to be the difference between the two sides and she finished with 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals to go along with her 27 points.
Yilmaz was Turkey's outstanding performer as she scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.