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What it means to make the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019
MUNICH (FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019 Qualifiers ) - It was a roller-coaster ride in the Qualifiers and the emotions were flowing as the field was set for the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019 in Latvia and Serbia.
Italy punched their ticket but the celebrations did have a slight tinge of sadness as the legendary Raffaella Masciadri called time on her illustrious career.
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At least she was able to sign off on a real high as Italy edged out Sweden 62-56 to top the group. Perhaps suitably it was a rising star that picked up the baton from the veteran, with Olbis Futo Andre claiming 20 points and 9 boards.
“It was a very important game for us," declared the Famila Schio player.
"We took a solid lead in the first half, but Sweden had a great reaction. We wanted to win and we won because we stayed united even when we didn't score. We are so happy now”.
Azania Stewart of Great Britain claimed her 100th and 101st cap for her country and was involved in the perfect parting gift as they claimed a win double over Greece and Portugal.
She was thrilled to be able to bow out on such a positive note and said: "I'm really happy, I mean, it's hard work that we've put in over the last year and step-by-step. I'm just so happy to be home and all my family and friends could come and support me and the team.
"I got put in great positions to succeed and I'm happy with the result [against Portugal]," added Stewart.
"We made sure that we came out with good energy and played our style, but at the same time respect them. We knew they were an aggressive team, and we had watched them on film, so obviously they were scrappy and a really hard team.”
Back in 2010, Montenegro had never featured in a Final Round and yet now they are ready for a fifth straight appearance at the event. They did the business in a must-win contest in Slovakia as Glory Johnson took the headlines with a monumental double-double of 27 points and 16 boards in a 68-82 road success. There was also a spectacular intervention by Bozica Mujovic!
Head coach Roberto Iniguez who also holds the coaching reins of Sopron Basket in EuroLeague Women, was delighted afterwards.
He commented: "First of all, it is hard to lose at home. I think that Slovakia plays good basketball, but in this match they were under pressure. That is sometimes hard. We stuck to the plan, we played more focused, and we did not repeat the same mistakes.
"I am proud of my team and overall I am happy. Slovakia played maybe the best basketball in the whole group, but we did our job in a game that was like a final."
Belarus beat Turkey in Kayseri 56-60 and that gave satisfaction to head coach, Nataliya Trafimava who was on the court playing in past events.
“We wanted to win this game because we didn't want to wait for other games to finish and have to learn their scores," she revealed.
"We knew that we had to stop Isil Alben and Quanitra Hollingsworth to win. We were able to do that and this was the key to the victory."
Finally, there was absolute heartbreak for Greece on a day when they beat Israel, but ended up being squeezed out as one of the two runners-up whose basket difference was not enough.
The game witnessed the end of the stellar international career of Styliani Kaltsidou, with fellow veteran Evina Maltsi underlining just how much respect she has for her colleague.