By Paul Nilsen
|The 28-year-old Montenegro center was simply sensational in the EuroBasket Women Qualifying Round, averaging 17.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and two assists per game|
There was nobody more clinical during the EuroBasket Women Qualifying Round than Iva Perovanovic and the center is hoping for another sensational summer, as Montenegro prepare to make history at their first ever Final Round.
Pervanovic was an unstoppable force last year in the paint, for a Montenegro team that built on their earlier promotion from Division B to further steal the limelight by reaching EuroBasket Women 2011.
Not surprisingly, there will be few countries more excited or proud than this fledgling basketball nation when the big tip off arrives.
Perovanovic is quick to reiterate just how much it means to the players and fans now counting down the days to the big day.
"Qualifying really means a lot for our national team. It is the first time our country has ever done something like this.
"In the past, I have played with the Serbia & Montenegro national team but now of course it's going to be even more emotional than before. After all, we made history for our country!
"We have all worked so hard for the past three years and we have only suffered two losses during that period which shows all the hard work has really paid off for us.
"We are going to Poland to show that it's not just a coincidence or good luck that we are in the final round of EuroBasket Women for the first time.
|Perovanovic's partner in the Montenegro frontcourt line, Jelena Dubljevic, who was the team's top scorer last summer (18.1 ppg) also plays her club basketball in France, with Tarbes|
"Our first aim and the most important was just to make sure that we did not drop from Division A.
"At the beginning of the Qualifying Round last summer we didn't expect a lot or maybe believed that we could do it, but after we won against Hungary in our very first game, we saw that there was no team that couldn't be beaten so we started believing more that we could qualify.
"We also had a great atmosphere in our team throughout the whole time and also a big amount of support from our fans at home which helped us a lot.
"I was really happy with my personal performances but of course that would have meant nothing if we hadn't qualified while the performances of the other girls on the team were just as important for us."
Montenegro will match-up against hosts Poland, likely podium finishers Spain and a third opponent who will be determined from the Additional Qualifying Tournament.
Perovanovic is relaxed about what lies in wait by playing in Group C and believes Montenegro will thrive from having little or no real expectation placed on their shoulders.
"We don't have anything to lose and maybe that will be to our advantage compared with other teams.
"We will still play every game to our maximum to make sure we have possibilities.
"With Spain being one of the top four teams during the past few years, they will probably be the leader in the Group, while Poland will have the obvious advantage of the home court, but we do not have anything to lose.
"Because of this, we'll try to make a big surprise and go as far as possible!"
The excitement and fun ahead of EuroBasket Women 2011 has also been turned up a level for Perovanovic by way of plenty of joking in the locker room and on the practice floor at Montpellier, alongside Croatian national team star Ana Lelas who is also heading to Poland.
The duo have had plenty of time to exchange some light-hearted rivalry during what has been a good season with their club team - and also take time to laugh about their supposed status as two of the tournament underdogs.
"At Montpellier we have made a big success by qualifying for the play-offs and also reaching the semi-finals of the French Cup.
"Me and Ana have already made a bet about whether we will meet each other in the semi-finals or in the final at EuroBasket Women 2011!"