Russia’s dominance of the European Championship for U18 Women continues. For the 3rd time in a row and 4th time in 5 championships, Russia are European Champions at this age level.
They entered the final against Spain as the overwhelming favourites to win, having beaten all their opponents by an average margin of 31 points in the championship. A 2-point loss to Hungary withstanding, the Russians have looked like a team destined to be win the tournament.
Spain could take hope from Hungary’s defeat of Russia, but knew that they were physically outmatched at every position and would have to play something close to a perfect game to win.
If the Russians themselves believed that Spain would not offer them much of a challenge, they certainly didn’t show it in the first quarter. Both sides were obviously suffering from big-game nerves and struggled with their shooting early one. At the end of the opening period, Russia had scored just 13 points to Spain’s 10.
|Tatiana Bokareva turned in a dominant performance in the final|
Russia’s trademark at this tournament has been one period of relentless attack which has usually resulted in a shell-shocked opponent. In many games it has been the second quarter in which they have asserted themselves (they have averaged 22 points in the second quarter of all their games) and today was no different.
The danger for Spain was always going to be the inside power of the Russians, led by Tatiana Bokareva. The Russian center had her way against the Spanish in a dominant first half in which she tallied 13 points and 12 rebounds. While Bokareva grabbed every rebound in sight, her team-mates were benefiting and by the midway point in the quarter, Russia had a 17-point advantage, 38:21.
The Russians finished the second period with 26 points to their credit and seemingly already had one hand on the championship trophy.
But Spain did not give up.
If the Spanish had one advantage over the Russians, it was quickness. Blanca Marcos, Silvia Dominguez and Anna Cruz consistently found their way to the basket in the third quarter. Spain capped a solid 10 minutes with a Sara Gomez 3-pointer that cut the Russian lead to single digits at the buzzer, 50:41 and suddenly the conclusion did not seem as foregone as at halftime.
But any momentary lapse by the Russians was put behind them in the fourth. Ekaterina Savelyeva was the outstanding player of the quarter for Russia and her 12 points in 10 minutes led her team back to safety and then victory.
Bokareva’s dominance was reflected in the statistics and she finished the game with 26 points, 23 rebounds and 3 blocks. Savelyeva added 23 in 32 minutes.