23 - 31
July 2016
13 Paula GINZO ARANTES (Spain); 11 Francesca PAN (Italy)
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Holders out to take top seat in Group C

SOPRON (FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship 2016) – Defending champions Spain have only missed the podium steps once in seven editions of the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship and that tradition alone makes them hot favourites to top Group C.

While some may point to the lack of a standout leader such as last year’s MVP in Angela Salvadores, their preparation results suggest that teamwork and all-round depth will be the key. Perfumerias Avenida play-caller Miguel Angel Ortega and his players have enjoyed huge wins over Russia, Italy and Netherlands, with Laia Sole, Naira Caceres and Paula Ginzo all impressive. The latter two were both clutching gold medals in Celje last year as the youngest players on the podium and so that experience will be vital.

Lithuania have also looked very good in the warm-up games and recently stormed to big Baltic Cup wins against Turkey and Latvia. They have much continuity from last year, with half the team back on board and even without the formidable Laura Juskaite to call upon, they will be hopeful of a productive campaign.

Lithuania will look to the powerful Gabija Meskonyte to pick up the slack left by Juskaite, with the forward the second leading scorer for her nation in Celje and top shot blocker. 

Gabija Meskonyte impressed last year at the event in Celje, Slovenia

There is also a real injection of quality from the team that won gold en-route to promotion at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship 2015 and not least Livija Sakeviciute who was MVP of the recent Baltic Cup preparation tournament.

Belgium made the Quarter-Finals at the last edition in Slovenia with a relatively young team and that means plenty of players coming back to the tournament which could make them tricky opponents, although they will have to play well in a challenging opening group.

Elisa Ramette is a quality guard who will is likely to provide the leadership needed and is also adept at crashing the glass very well for her position. Lore Devos is a busy wing player who is always in any game, but under the basket is where Belgium might struggle as they don’t have a standout post player like in some previous years, an issue they need to overcome – or indeed hope someone has a breakout tournament.

Finally, predicting where Serbia might land in the group is tricky, with both last year’s U18 and U16 teams finishing in the middle of the pack after missing out on the Quarter-Finals of each event and yet comfortably avoiding relegation. Their leading scorer at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship 2015 in Mina Djordjvic will be an important figure, while Ivana Katanic is a very capable point guard. The real question is whether they can match-up effectively in the paint.