Well, well, well. We have reached the 2009 EuroBasket Women quarter-finals here in Riga. And there are a couple of great match-ups. Before looking at the quarters, here’s a look back at the Qualification Round. 

First off all, the weather in Riga has improved greatly with the sun actually making an extended appearance to help raise the moods of all.

Onto the games – starting with Group E

Spain proved the class of the group with a perfect 5-0 record. Evaristo Perez’s Iberians picked up their defensive pressure to breeze past Greece. The Spaniards then allowed just six third quarter points to beat Poland comfortably. Amaya Valdemoro returned to the line-up from her calf injury and pulled tooth and played a major factor while Anna Montanana was absolutely amazing in Spain’s 67-60 win over hosts Latvia in front of an unbelievable crowd of almost 8,000 in the Arena Riga.

Pokey Chatman worked her coaching magic with Slovakia, bringing them back to quarter-finals as the second-placed team on the strength of their victory over Latvia. The deep Slovakians even were able to afford a loss in the last game against Greece to make the final eight.

Latvia dropped their last two games to fall to third place when Greece needed to beat Slovakia and have the disappointing Czechs knock off Poland to reach the quarters. Needless to say, the Czechs will be warm gets in Greece after sending the Greeks into the quarters.

Group F

France finished the group undefeated at 5-0, topping the group in the end by beating reigning champions Russia with a great defensive showing while controlling their ball. Pierre Vincent’s French are undoubtedly led by Sandrine Gruda, who has become a defensive force to go along with her unstoppable offensive game. France also have what it takes to close out tight games as they have an average winning margin of 6.7 points.

The defending champs Russia took second place with a 4-1 record after losing to France. Head coach Valeriy Tikhonenko got Becky Hammon back in the final Qualification Round game but it was not enough. The Russians have relied on their excellent defense and done just enough on offense, which has not looked pretty at times.

The 2007 bronze medalists Belarus returned from the dead to grab third place with two straight victories after a three-game losing streak, during which Anatoli Buyalski’s team looked in shambles. Anastasiya Verameyenka blocks or intimidates so many shots in the blocks while Katsiaryna Snytsina and Tatyana Troina lead the way from the outside.

Italy grabbed fourth place for their first quarter-final showing since 1995, sending home Turkey and Lithuania – both of whom had chances to advance on the final game day. The Italians are unspectacular and rely on tough defense and some fine long range shooting.

 

So, let’s move onto a preview of the quarter-finals

Wednesday: Slovakia vs. Belarus 

This is an intriguing match-up. Slovakia are very deep and have a great scorer in Zuzana Zirkova. Belarus cannot afford to have playmaker Natallia Marchanka get tired or in foul trouble trying to guard Zirkova, especially since Marchanka will need to stay on the court since the Belarus back-up playmakers are a nightmare. So look at Belarus coach Anatoli Buyalski to throw different defenders at Zirkova. 

Pick: Belarus 59-54


Thursday: France vs. Greece

This showdown will see two teams each trying to figure out ways to slow down a great scorer. France must find a way to defend Greek forward Evanthina Maltsi, the tournament’s leading scorer with 22.7 points per game. The Greeks meanwhile have the nightmare task of stopping Sandrine Gruda, who is averaging 16.8 points for her part. Look for the French to use their advantage in the post in a low-scoring game and move into the semis.

Pick: France 60-53


Wednesday: Spain vs. Italy

Undefeated Group E winners Spain go into the quarters as probably the biggest favorites against up-start Italy. The Spaniards should be even better than against Latvia with Amaya Valdemoro having one game under her belt with the team. Italy absolutely must find a way to slow the game down and hope that the Spanish get frustrated by not being able to run. And the Italians also have to hit from long range to stay in the game. Spain will eventually overwhelm Italy – if not from the very beginning.

Pick: Spain 72-59

 

Thursday: Russia vs. Latvia

This is a showdown of two excellent teams looking to rebound from tough losses. The reigning champs Russia will have two days of practice with Becky Hammon after losing against France before facing off with hosts Latvia, who dropped their last two games against Slovakia and Spain. Latvia will need Anete Jekabsone-Zogota to have a huge game but Zane Tamane will need to produce en masse in the paint against Maria Stepanova and Irina Osipova. Hammon gives Russia a deadly shooter who can also drive and create openings for others – an element the Russians have been missing a bit before her arrival.

Pick: Russia 68-63

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1 Comment

  1. rokpelnis says:

    Wow, almost perfect prediction for Russia-Latvia final score!!!