EUROBASKET WOMEN 2011
Mark Woods spent the duration of EuroBasket Women 2011 writing for FIBAEurope.com as well as updating the world of Twitter @markbritball.
You can read more by Mark in Destination Lithuania, a series of features about players who are preparing for EuroBasket 2011.
It's been 15 days of fun. Of agonies and ecstasies. Of wins and losses preceded by extreme drama. And most of all, of terrific basketball produced by competitors leaving it all on the court.
And now it's all over. Here are ten things I'll remember most about these Two and A Half Weeks in Poland.
The Fairies of the Court. Who knew this was the nickname for Turkey's team? A little bit lost in translation it may be but they have worked some magic during this EuroBasket, shocking everyone - even themselves - with a run to the final with their tough play and some smart coaching. Let's hope it's the start of a new era rather than a one-off.
France feeling Les Bleues. Who knows whether the 2009 champions would have defended their title if Emmeline Ndongue hadn't watched the knock-out stages from the sidelines, holding her crutches, rather than from her familiar prime position under the basket? C'est la vie. It was bronze for them. They'll now look to bounce back at the Olympics next year, if they qualify.
|Whatever the proper translation of the Turkey women's team nickname is, Nevriye Yilmaz and her team-mates put on a fantastic display in Poland|
The Balkan ascent. The former Yugoslavia claimed four silver and two bronze medals in past EuroBasket finals before its nations scattered. They'd fallen off the map before Croatia and Montenegro, finishing fifth and sixth, stood tall here. A bright future is promised with players from both teams determined that they should no longer be the poor relations of basketball within their countries.
Bring on the Games. There were fears that awarding Great Britain an automatic berth at their own Olympics next year could lead to embarrassment for the hosts on the court. Not a chance. GB reached the second phase, came so close to shocking both Lithuania and Russia, and earned (almost) universal respect with their tough defence. They'll be no pushovers in 2012.
The tears and traumas. Belarus and Spain both arrived in Poland chasing places on the podium. By the time the tournament arrived in Lodz for the latter stages, they had gone home after failing to advance beyond the second round. Devastation was on the face of both teams. Spain lacked chemistry. The Belarusian demise is harder to explain.
Iva's sad exit. Possibly the most tragic moment of EuroBasket Women was the sight of Iva Perovanovic departing the Lodz Arena on a stretcher after sustaining a knee injury during the fourth quarter of the fifth place play-off against Croatia. With 16.4 points per game, the Montenegrin centre was the tournament's leading scorer. Let's wish her a speedy recovery.
On the Buses. The MVF award goes to the fans of Montenegro who sat for 26 hours on a coach, winding their way through several countries, to arrive in time to see their team lose in the quarter-finals. Did they stop cheering? Not a chance. That's devotion.
The Young Guns. We've seen some youthful names emerged as true forces. Elena Danilochkina, the MVP, now owns Russia ahead of her veteran team-mates. Czech guard Katerina Elhotova is a genuinely world-class performer. So is Latvia's Elina Bankina. But look out for Montenegro's Ana Turcinovic. Aged just 17, the 1.90m centre has given us glimpses of what could be a rare talent.
Host Privilege. Poland's team departed in the second round but their army of tireless volunteers carried their torch to the very end, with good grace and humour that was a slam dunk.
Never write off the Russians. We saw them wobble. We thought they were done. We should have known better. Somehow, a remarkable transformation took place between Day 1 and 15 but as ever, they arrived safely in the final. And for the third time, they stand as champions - an unstoppable machine.