08/10/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 08/10/2019 17:08
KLATOVY (Czech Republic) - Italy and Russia will battle it out for the FIBA U20 Women's European Championship 2019 title after earning hard-fought victories in the Semi-Finals.
Russia moved to a perfect 6-0 record as they held on for a dramatic 51-50 triumph over Belgium - overcoming 13 points and 18 rebounds from Billie Massey.
After leading by 12 at half-time, Russia had to repel a second-half fightback with their defense holding strong in the key moments, particularly Daria Repnikova with two key blocks down the stretch.
Anna Zaitceva top scored with 12 points along with 9 rebounds, while Kamilla Ogun collected 12 boards to help her side come out on top in the battle on the glass.
A resurgent Italy side claimed their fourth straight success having started the tournament 0-2 by adding the scalp of France to that of Spain in a 56-43 triumph.
Sara Madera led the way with 15 points and 11 rebounds in another fine display as her side avenged their earlier loss to France - who were 5-0 heading into the matchup before suffering another frustrating shooting night.
Italy had taken control before seeing France battle back to take a 43-42 lead in the final quarter, but Valeria Trucco stepped up with two huge triples to help close out the win.
Italy were runners-up in 2013 and 2016, while Russia last the won the title in 2010 having also been champions on four previous occasions (2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008).
Meanwhile, Belgium and France will lock horns to make it onto the third step of the podium - it would mark a first-ever medal for Belgium at the event if they were to prevail.
Meet the Finalists: Russia
Route to the Final: 58-43 W v Czech Republic (Group C); 65-43 W v Poland (Group C); 59-53 W v Sweden (Group C); 53-47 W v Germany (Round of 16); 64-51 W v Russia (Quarter-Finals); 51-50 W v Belgium (Semi-Finals)
Key performers: Valentina Kozhukhar has the best efficiency rating on the team and has put up 9.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, just behind leading scorer Anastasiia Zotkina who averages 9.8 points on a balanced scoring attack, while Kamilla Ogun and Anna Zaitceva also add their presence on the glass.
What they said: 'It is so exciting to be in the Final. We will fight for the title and just try our best. We need to be strong on defense, make the right decisions and play together as a team.' - Russia center Anastasiia Zotkina
Meet the Finalists: Italy
Key performers: Sara Madera leads the team in points (13.3) and rebounds (8.0) per game with consistent displays including two double-doubles. Martina Fassina shone against Spain in the last eight, while Constanza Verona is handing out 3.2 assists per outing, finding the 3-point threats at key moments.
What they said: 'It was a really good win for us and we did not expect that. Physically they were so strong and in the group we lost by nearly 20 points. It was a good fight because they were one of the teams fighting for the Championship. We took confidence from beating Germany in the group then Czech Republic at their home and then lots of confidence from beating Spain. Our defense is important for us and we have to support each other and play together as a team on offense.' - Italy center Sara Madera.