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Lazic looking to break Italian hearts
UDINE (FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship 2016) – When Mihaela Lazic and Croatia rolled up at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship 2016 in Udine, nobody expected they would find themselves just 40 minutes away from the Semi-Finals.
Yet thanks to some huge contributions from the free-scoring guard, that’s exactly where they find themselves as Croatia look forward to trying to upset Italy in Friday’s Quarter-Finals and keep showing the doubters they have some serious game.
"This is a big motivation for us and now we have proved we are in the best eight teams of the competition," declared Lazic, after her team overcome a third quarter wobble in a hard-fought Round of 16 success against Latvia.
"For sure we were a little bit nervous at that part of this important game, but we gave the best we had and that is always the most important thing.
"Everybody in Croatia had just been telling us to stay in Division A and that would be okay, but now we are going for a medal."
It’s a case of third time lucky for the Slavonski Brod-native, who now finds herself in the top eight of the competition for the first time after featuring in the past two editions. Her leadership qualities have been at the forefront of Croatia’s campaign and she is thriving on the responsibility.
"As this is my third Championship, I can feel a big difference and of course it gets easier to play every year," pondered Lazic.
"I have more experience this time and that’s great. Maybe there is a little more pressure on my shoulders, but we are a team.
"We are not just about one or two players. Everybody contributes, plays defence and offence and we all play for each other."
Lazic and her team-mates have been following the Croatia senior men's team in Rio during their time in Udine
That collective group spirit and passion for the Croatian vest has also manifested itself through following the senior men at the Rio Olympics. Four years ago, the women were stepping out at London 2012 and it is something that fuels Lazic to continue reaching for the sky.
She said, "We watch them every day and we are with them and supporting them. It is my dream to play in the Olympics and with this team [we have in Udine], I think we can achieve this one day.
"I would also like to maybe go to College and play there - then the WNBA," continued Lazic, with her eyes lighting up at the prospect.
"That’s my dream and it’s true that playing in Europe would also be great. In fact, wherever I am, my dream is to be able to make a living off basketball."
For now, it’s Croatia who are very much living off their leader’s impressive contributions, as they continue moving towards what would be the most unlikely of potential podium finishes.