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Unbeaten quintet stay perfect to clinch FIBA Women's EuroBasket tickets
MUNICH (FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019 Qualifiers) – Czech Republic, Russia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey emerged as the first national teams to conquer the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019 Qualifiers after clinching tickets to the Final Round with victories on Saturday evening.
All five teams that entered the last qualification window perfect kept their winning streaks alive to ensure they are among the sides heading to Latvia and Serbia next June, although none of them have guaranteed pole position in their respective groups.
Russia needed a dominant 23-point and 9-rebound performance from Maria Vadeeva to hold off another gritty Lithuanian effort in a 79-77 contest to maintain an unblemished record at 5-0, with Laura Juskaite missing a couple of crucial free throws down the stretch for the home side. Having trailed for most of the second half, the Olaf Lange-coached guests used a 9-0 dash in the middle of the fourth quarter to get out of a sticky situation in Kedainiai.
In the other game of the group, Hungary left no prisoners in a 139-27 demolition of their Albanian counterparts and climbed to 4-1, as the trio of Zsofia Fegyverneky, Krisztina Raksanyi and Bernadett Hatar combined for 62 points to lead the way.
In Group B, the undefeated Turkey put a stamp on their ticket to the Final Round with a 68-49 victory over Poland on the road in Bydgoszcz, with Isil Alben doing the honors with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals. Quanitra Hollingsworth was the only other player in double digits for Turkey with 10 points, while Angelika Stankiewicz collected a team-high 11 for the home side.
Meanwhile, the second-placed Belarus boosted their qualification chances by improving to a 4-1 mark with a 113-63 triumph over Estonia, as Anastasiya Verameyenka registered a triple-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
Getting an 88-68 victory against Finland behind terrific play from Shante Evans, Zala Friskovec and Eva Lisec did the job for Slovenia in Group E, as they improved to a 5-0 record to return to the Final Round of the tournament after making their debut in 2017. Evans finished with a game-high 19 points for the Women's EuroBasket bound Slovenes, while Friskovec and Lisec contributed with 17 and 13 points, respectively.
France kept their fate in their own hands by scoring a 90-61 victory over Romania in Cluj-Napoca to climb to 4-1 before the final showdown against Slovenia in Charleville-Mezieres.
In Group F, the defending champions Spain locked in their place in the 2019 edition by beating the Netherlands 65-48, with Cristina Ouvina leading a well-rounded scoring effort with a team-high 12 points and Astou Ndour adding 8 points, 13 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
The other fixture in the group saw Ukraine beat Bulgaria 86-60 behind a 32-point explosion from Alina Iagupova to get their mark to 4-1 before the decisive Qualifiers clash against the group front-runners in Spain.
The Stefan Svitek-coached Czech Republic joined the celebrations by registering an 88-53 road victory against Switzerland to make it five wins in a row in Group G. Karolina Elhotova went 8-of-11 from the field for a game-high 20 points, while her sister Katerina added 15 points in just 19 minutes of action.
Not qualified yet, Belgium are set to challenge the Czechs for the top spot in the standings on Wednesday after propping up their record to 4-1 with a 77-58 victory over Germany, with Emma Meesseman going off for a game-high 28 points on incredibly efficient 12-of-18 shooting from the floor.
There were no qualified teams in the other three groups, though Great Britain did come mighty close in Group D with a down-to-the-wire 79-77 win over Greece in Manchester. Needing to win by at least three points to already secure a Women's EuroBasket berth, the hosts were denied early qualification by Evanthia Maltsi, who swished in three straight from the stripe with four seconds left to melt the margin. In the other game of the group, Portugal eliminated Israel from contention with their first win of the campaign in a 75-72 nail-biter in Matosinhos.
Elsewhere, Italy and Sweden achieved important wins in Group H to jointly climb to 4-1 in the standings, beating Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, respectively. Elisa Penna scored a team-high 17 points, as Italy overcame Croatian opposition 64-52, while Louice Halvarsson had a 20-point and 10-rebound double-double on perfect 8-of-8 shooting for Sweden in a 118-48 win in Skopje.
In Group A, Sabina Oroszova double-doubled with 17 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals and 5 blocks, as Slovakia improved to 4-1 with an 82-52 victory over Iceland in Reykjavik, while Bosnia and Herzegovina beat Montenegro 83-68 to preserve their chances of qualifying.
The remaining nine Final Round spots will be decided on Wednesday, with the eight group winners and six best second-placed teams qualifying for next year's main event.