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Preview: Groups C and D

8 Evgenia KOLLATOU (Greece)
v , 2015 U18 European Championship Women DIVISION B, Bucharest - Arena de Baschet RBF (Romania), First Round, 1 August 2015

SARAJEVO (FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship Division B 2016) – On the eve of the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship Division B 2016 in Sarajevo, we check out the candidates in Groups C and D.

If there is one Group that looks to be particularly wide open, then surely it is Group C which contains no real big-hitters who have much regular Division A experience. Or perhaps that is with the exception of Greece – although they only scraped into a top ten Division B spot last summer in Bucharest. Evgenia Kollatou looks destined to continue as the leader of the team after pouring in more than 15 points per game at the previous edition of the tournament, with Maria Dandoulaki ready to control the glass alongside Maria Anastasopoulou.

England will rely on a glut of young talent from the Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL) as they bid to improve on a disappointing 12th place last year. Gabriele Nikitinaite will be a threat from the wings and the dynamic Imani Whittington is also someone to look out for. The team will be able to draw upon the experience of Brit legend Stef Collins and her fellow Olympian Julie Page, who are both on the coaching staff.

Only Albania and Cyprus finished below Ireland last year and yet hopes will be high of a strong showing as they finished a creditable seventh at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship Division B and the likes of Claire Melia will be stepping up to add her scoring touch, alongside the more experienced Verity O’Connor and Anna Maguire.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia didn’t compete last year at this event, so will rely largely on their U16 players stepping up to the plate as they all turned out last summer on home soil in Ohrid and Struga, with Anamarija Shekjeroska the pick of the crop.

Estonia will look to hit back after their rookie summer in Division A last year which proved challenging with nine losses and no victory to their name. The good news is that it was a young team who were thrown into the heat of the top flight and more than half of that roster is back and better for the experience, so perhaps they can shine. Scoring was the problem and the most likely source of offensive joy looks to be Sandra Tael and Ege-Ly Viirmaa.

Ariela Stocklassa could be hard to stop in the paint for Sweden's opponents

In Group D, Germany and Sweden look like the obvious candidates to slug it out for pole position, since both have a pedigree of playing Division A basketball. The pair missed out on promotion last summer in Romania after finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Sweden could have a potential star of the tournament in Klara Lundquist who is one of the most free-scoring players of her generation in Europe and very exciting to watch, while Ariela Stocklassa can go to work under the hoop.

Germany look like they won’t be fielding powerhouse Nyara Sabally which will be a relief to their opponents, although they do have shooting and passing talent in Fine Bohmke, rebounding in Anne Zipser and defensive intensity in Lucile Peroche.

Bulgaria had two mid-finishes at both U18 and U16 Division B level during 2015, so will be hoping a fusion in Sarajevo of both rosters might inspire an improvement, with guard combo Anna Radenkova and Gergana Ivanova looking potentially potent.

Last but not least, Scotland are another nation who didn’t play in the tournament last year, though did play Division C and went unbeaten. They also competed at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship Division B, with Morven Fraser and Hannah Robb likely to spearhead the campaign.