Katerina Bartonova and the Czech Republic confirmed second spot in Group D with Monday's victory
By Joe Hewison
Turning Point: Croatia only led for a total of three-and-a-half minutes, all in the first quarter, before a mini-burst gave the Czech Republic a lead they never looked like giving up.
Stats Don't Lie: The Czech Republic hit three of their first five three-point attempts to close out the opening period with the lead.
Game Hero: Katerina Hindrakova produced her best performance of this, her first senior championships, scoring 17 points on eight-of-nine shooting.
Czech Republic point guard Veronika Bortelová cited increased focus and concentration in the third quarter as the reason for their 74-68 victory over Croatia.
The result saw the Czech team seal second spot in Group D and with it an advantage over the Croatians heading into the next phase, where wins against other teams that to have also qualified carry through.
The Czech Republic never trailed after a high-scoring end to the first quarter put them 24-20 in front.
The gap was five (37-32) at half-time after a back-and-forth second period but a higher level of defensive intensity allowed the Czech team to get out in transition and build up a 12-point lead heading into the last quarter.
"In the third quarter we played pretty good defence and scored some easy baskets," said Bortelová, who had four steals to go with her 12 points in 27 minutes of play.
"We played harder. We just concentrated more and focused more in the beginning of the second half because we didn't want them to get into a rhythm and keep scoring."
Croatian duo Ana Lelas and Iva Sliskovic still had some success inside, both scoring 13 points as the teams were tied for 34 points in the paint.
But a 12-0 run in that pivotal third quarter was essentially enough to see the Czechs over the line despite a concerted effort from Croatia to hit back in the final stanza.
Croatia Head Coach Stipe Bralic felt another slow start didn't help his team's cause either however.
He said: "We played correct only in the last quarter. In the first and third quarter we could do more to force more turnovers."