Russia Top Group B, Lithuania Advance

01.07.2007

Cindy Garcia-Bennett, Novi Sad

A defiant Russia progressed to the qualifying round of the UMCOR U18 European Championship for Women as Group B winners after prevailing 68-64 over France in a battle of unbeatens.

Russia center Natalia Vieru scored two of her game-high 21 points with a strong move in the lane just 47 seconds from the end to give her team the lead for good at 66-64.

Aurime Rinkeviciute (Lithuania)
Aurime Rinkeviciute was three of nine from three-points in leading Lithuania to the next stage.
Sarah Michel attempted to pull France level but threw up an air ball, and Camille Aubert was then called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Daria Ezhova with eight seconds left.

Ezhova missed both free throws, but with no rebound to be had because of the unsportsmanlike call the French were forced to foul again and Tatiana Abrakisova, converted two from the stripe to seal the victory.

France struggled from the off against Russia's defense with Les Bleues just four of 24 from the floor in the first quarter, leaving them 24-14 behind.

The French stepped up their defense and limited Russia to just three points over the next five minutes to cut the deficit 27-22.

Russia held on to the lead and went into the break with a 38-30 advantage, though, with Vieru having tallied nine of her points by that stage.

France battled back and Aubert's jumper, which came in the middle of a 7-0 run, put them in front for the first time midway through the third quarter at 42-41.

Russia reclaimed the lead by the end of the third quarter at 53-52, but there was still all to play for over the final 10 minutes.

France trailed in the fourth until Marielle Amant's jump shot gave them a 60-59 lead with five minutes left.

An Ana Cata-Chitiga lay-up, taking per points haul to 12, made it 63-59 with four minutes to play.

France weren’t able to close out the victory, however.

Elena Pavlova (nine points) tied the contest at 64-64 with a jump shot, and Vieru put them in front for good.

The French had a tough day shooting the ball, finishing 22 of 69 (31.8%) from the floor for the contest.

Russia took just four three-pointers and made one, while inside the arc they were 19 of 45 (42.2%).

Lithuania clinched their passage to the next round with the Russians and French by beating winless Bulgaria, 75-64.

Saule Kontautaite and Gintare Petronyte scored 21 points apiece to fire the Lithuanians to their first win of the tournament.

Guard Aurime Rinkeviciute's three-pointer with seven minutes remaining sparked an 8-0 Lithuanian run that gave the Baltic team the lead for good.

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