U18 WOMEN BRONZE MEDAL GAME
Click to watch the Bronze Medal Game of the U18 European Championship Women between the Netherlands and Serbia LIVE on FIBA Europe TV, Sunday at 16:30 CET
|The semi-final loss was hard on Serbia but forward Natasa Kovacevic says they now have to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go for the bronze medal |
By Paul Nilsen
Natasa Kovacevic is vowing to put the disappointment of not making the final of the U18 European Championship Women behind her and wrapping up the tournament by firing Serbia to a podium finish against the Netherlands.
The forward certainly had a mixed night during the 75-69 semi-final defeat to Russia, registering a double-double after doing the dirty work on the glass for her team, but she didn't shoot the ball as well as she is capable of.
"It was a difficult game for us," admitted Kovacevic.
"When you lose like that, I think it takes a little time to clear the head and decide what went wrong.
"But we know that, in some ways, we have no option but to erase this performance and result from our minds.
"We want to work hard and fight until the very end and that is the only option we know."
"I think we are disappointed right now but know how important it is to finish third," she added.
Serbia can justifiably feel like they let themselves down against the Russians. Just three points in a near seven-minute drought at the end of the game meant they missed out on an appearance in the final.
Perhaps the worst element was that it wasn't because they were simply missing shots.
They committed four big turnovers when it mattered the most down the stretch.
Standing in their way of finishing on a high are the Dutch, who can probably empathise a little having imploded during the last quarter against France, thus allowing a glorious opportunity to slip through their fingers.
|With the Netherlands shooting only 18.7 percent from beyond the three-point arc, their chances will depend greatly on what forward/center Kourtney Treffers can come up with inside|
There is also the added dimension of the Netherlands having beaten Serbia already in Bucharest, 68-66 in the Second Round.
It was a real gut-wrenching defeat for the Serbs who lost in overtime having held a healthy double-digit lead during regulation.
Sunday's bronze medal game will offer a particularly fascinating match-up under the basket, between the contrasting styles of Dragana Stankovic and Kourtney Treffers.
Both centers are leading their teams in rebounds, as you might expect, but with Treffers happier stepping out and also being able to play the power forward position if needed, it will be intriguing to see how they play each other defensively.
The biggest problem for the Netherlands has been their perimeter game and indeed they are the worst three-point shooting team in the tournament, with 18.7 percent. This is a stark contrast to Serbia who is one of the best, with 32 percent.
The Dutch have already hinted that they feel they have over-achieved simply by getting the chance of a podium place, but that shouldn't detract from their desire to get the bronze medal.
As for Serbia, they did the hard work against favourites Spain and to now follow this up with two losses to finish their campaign would leave a slightly bitter taste in their mouths, even if they've already booked a place at the FIBA U19 World Championship next summer.