Russia crowned queens of Europe

Russia defeated surprise finalists Turkey 59-42 in Lodz to claim the 2011 Eurobasket Women gold medal, and with that, a place in 2012 London Olympics.

It was a team performance from the Russians, who started the tournament with sub-par showings, by recording narrow wins over the Slovak Republic and Great Britain, but losing to Lithuania, came through when it mattered, with Maria Stepanova landing an impressive double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds. While Elena Danilochkina secured the MVP honours for the tournament.

But, for the brave Turkey side – like their male equivalent at the World Championships – they finish Eurobasket Women as runners-up, but they went down fighting until the very end of what was a compelling two weeks in Poland.

For Turkey to succeed, they had to get out to a quick start and pressure the Russian offence early. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.

Their cause wasn’t helped by the fact that they lost comprehensively on the boards 52-19, thanks to single-digit numbers of eight points in the first and fourth quarters.

Russia were competitive from the off, and raced to an early 19-8 lead after the first period. Which included a 9-0 run, as Danilochkina found her range early, especially from the baseline. Turkey were struggling to hit shots, which set the tone for what was to come.

The Russians scored the first five points of the second quarter, before Turkey decided to show-up and play with a bit more determination. Finding their range from deep, as Bahar Caglar and Saize Ivegin connected from deep to trim the lead to just four points.

Russian nerves were being tested. But up stepped forward Olga Arteshina to calm the nerves and it was her three-pointer that restored Russia’s double-digit advantage.

Turkey had no answer from then. No matter what they threw at the Russians. Boris Sokolovsky’s side answered right back.

Russia weathered a mini Turkey surge in the third and hit the opening eight points in the final quarter to finally end the challenge of Turkey.

“I am extremely happy,” Stepanova said after the game. But hinted that this may be her final appearance for the national side.

“This is my third gold medal at the Eurobasket Women and it could be my last as I may not play in another Eurobasket Women. We knew we had to play smart  against Turkey and use our size advantage. We did that and kept working until the end.”

Bronze for former gold-medalists.

France captured bronze in the first game of the final day of Eurobasket with a 63-56 win over the World Championship runners-up, the Czech Republic. Sandrine Grude finished with 26 points, six rebounds and four assists as France end their campaign on the podium.

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