|25 June 2012|
OLYMPIC QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT
Three European teams moved a step closer to the London Games on Monday with victories on the opening day of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women (OQTW) in Ankara.
|Tugce Canitez, Tugba Palazoglu and Quanitra Hollingsworth were no match for Puerto Rico|
Croatia thumped Mozambique, the Czech Republic hammered New Zealand and Turkey won comfortably against Puerto Rico to all but seal places in the Quarter-Finals.
France will take on Canada in their first game on Tuesday.
Croatia, who claimed fifth place at the EuroBasket Women to earn a place in the OQTW, began proceedings with an 84-62 triumph over Mozambique.
Ana Lelas played 29 minutes and poured in a team-high 20 points for the winners.
"Last summer was our best result since the existence of Croatia so I think if we go to the Olympics, our dream will come true," Lelas said.
The Czech Republic have played at the last two Olympic Games and they looked to be determined from the off against New Zealand to make it three straight.
Lubor Blazek's side outscored the Tall Ferns 20-6 in the opening quarter and had a 44-25 stranglehold by half-time.
The Czechs out-rebounded the Kiwis, 41-32 and also shot 26 of 56 (46.4%) inside the arc.
The European side went early and often to their low-post players Ilona Burgrova and Petra Kulichova and the strategy paid dividends.
Burgrova, one of the Czech players who has yet to appear in an Olympics and has battled back from a season-ending ankle injury to play at the OQTW, had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Kulichova finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
"We were a little bit nervous but we took advantage of our height and I think that the was key to our success," Burgrova said.
Turkey have the home-court advantage and a couple of important new additions to the team which won silver at the EuroBasket last year - namely Quanitra Hollingsworth, their American naturalized center and forward Tugce Canitez.
Hollingsworth had 13 points and nine rebounds as her team won, 65-53.
The winners of the four Quarter-Finals will advance to the Olympics.
The losers will battle it out for the fifth and final spot on offer at the OQTW for London.