Two great players and one great team.
Okay, maybe I should say two great players and two great teams.
But that was the first day of Qualification Round games at the 2009 EuroBasket Women.
Starting with the first game of the game in Riga, Slovakia were just too much as a team for Poland in a 65-55 victory. This game saw the first great player of the day – Poland’s Agnieszka Bibrzycka.
Watching the Ekaterinburg forward, you were reminded of the German men’s national team at times with Dirk Nowitzki and the rest of the team. Bibrzycka – or “Biba” for short – poured in 27 points on 8-of-17 shooting along with five rebounds and three assists. She turned the ball over seven times but that’s because she was forced to handle the ball so much and was defended so tough. But she still got her points.
Biba, however, will not make the quarter-finals. She just does not have enough scorers around her. That is unfortunate for the fans here in Riga, who only have two more games of watching Bibrzycka light it up.
The first great team was Spain, which went on a 21-0 run to start the second half in pulling away with a 67-48 victory over Greece.
First off, the Greeks – led by Evanthia Maltsi – were much better than I had expected. But Spain were just another level, even playing without Amaya Valdemoro.
Ana Montañana had an outstanding contest with 19 points as well as five rebounds. But she played some great defense and was the leader against the Greeks, who just could not handle the Spanish pressure.
The Spanish U20 duo of Laura Nicholls and Alba Torrens are showing why the Iberians are going to be great for years to come.
The impressive thing is that Evaristo Perez’s team have been playing so well without Valdemoro. Talking to Amaya after yesterday’s game, she said her calf is getting better. She can do lateral movement and take jumpers. But her main problem is landing on it after a layup for example. She said she thinks she could maybe go for the game against Latvia on Monday – which will likely decide first place in the Group E.
That segues to the second great player – and also second great team.
Latvia’s small forward Anete Jekabsone-Zogota is probably the best player at this tournament. The Dynamo Moscow starlet poured in 25 points along with four rebounds and four assists in Latvia’s 65-47 win over the Czech Republic.
Jekabsone-Zogota has not scored fewer than 20 points in averaging a tournament-best 24 points a game to go along with 3.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists, which ranks second in the competition. Just as impressive is that she is shooting 60 percent from the field – the third-best ranking in the event.
The 25-year-old Riga native is a pure joy to watch with her driving ability, sweet lefty jumper with superb release and excellent passing skills.
But Latvia is far from just Jekabsone-Zogota.
Zane Tamane has reached double figures scoring in three games – including 20 points against Hungary – in averaging 12.8 points while also averaging tournament bests of 8.8 rebounds a game and 69.7 percent field goal shooting.
Gunta Basko and Liene Jansone are both stars in their own right and both are great options offensively and play tough defense for coach Ainars Zvirgzdins.
The Latvia-Spain match-up on Monday promises to be an absolute highlight. The Arena Riga was already rocking on Thursday as the game commissioners were already talking about the 24-second buzzer not being loud enough. Just imagine it on Monday.
Well, Friday has three more excellent match-ups in Group F with Italy (1-1) taking on Turkey (1-1), Belarus (0-2) facing reigning champions Russia (2-0) and Lithuania (0-2) battling with France (2-0).
Enjoy the action