Russia was crowned as women’s EuroBasket champions on Sunday night in Lodz, becoming the third country – after the USA and Great Britain – to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games.

Led by 18 points and 12 rebounds from Maria Stepanova, they secured a convincing 59-42 victory over surprise finalists Turkey to lift a third title in eight years. (Stats)

The pre-tournament favourites, whose guard Elena Danilochkina was named as the Most Valuable Player, peaked at the right time after a stuttering start in the group stages and will now be among the leading contenders for gold in London next summer.

Russia, who last won the title in 2007, swept clear with a 9-0 run in the opening quarter as their opponents struggled for open shots.

You wondered if the Turks would fold when they trailed 24-8 early in the second quarter. They had already exceeded all expectations by reaching this finale. But, cheered on an army of noisy flag-waving supporters, they hauled themselves out of the mire.

A 15-4 burst put the Russians under pressure for the first time but Olga Arteshina and Maria Stepanova stemmed the tide and extended their side’s cushion to 33-23 at half-time.

You felt it was too much to ask the underdogs to deliver another surprise. So it proved.

With Danilochkina pulling the strings and a blockade imposed to halt Turkey’s interior combo of Nevin Nevlin and Nevriye Yilmaz, Boris Sokolovsky’s side saved their best for last.

Up 46-34 at the end of the third, Russia hit nine unanswered points and were never troubled again.

“I am extremely happy,” said Stepanova. “This is my third gold medal at the EuroBasket Women and it could be my last as I may not play in another one. We knew we had to play smart against Turkey and use our size advantage. We did that and kept working until the end.

“We have worked very hard in this tournament. Elena was very important for us. She did a great job. She is a young player and she is very talented.”

Earlier, two years after claiming gold, France secured the consolation of bronze at EuroBasket Women with a 63-56 victory over the Czech Republic.

After a game which swung back and forth, Sandrine Grude sparked a run of nine consecutive points in the fourth quarter that gave the French an unassailable lead with the forward scoring a game-high 26 points and adding 6 rebounds and 4 assists on 10/12 shooting.

All-Tournament Team (voted by media)

C Maria Stepanova (Russia)

F Nevriye Yilmaz (Turkey)

F Eva Viteckova (Czech Republic)

G Sandra Mandir (Croatia)

G Elena Danilochkina (Russia)


French promise full houses in 2013

The organisers of EuroBasket Women 2013 in France have promised that there will be no repeat of the empty seats that have plagued this year’s tournament in Poland.

Five host cities have been confirmed for an event which will run from June 15-30, with new arenas to be utilised in Orchies, Trelazé and Vendespace, plus yet to be determined venues in the regions of Bretagne and Nord.

Speaking at the closing press conference in Lodz, Nar Zarolin, FIBA Europe secretary-general, admitted a mistake had been made in using arenas this year which were “too big” for women’s basketball.

“I don’t think like a stadium this large is conducive to achieve what we want,” he said of the 13800-capacity Atlas Arena in Lodz.  “It’s just too big, After the discussions that we had, around 6-7000 might be the right dimension for women’s basketball at this time. And that’s the dimensions that we will have in France where we hope the gyms will be full.

“Because although the spectacle on the floor may be great – and we’ve had some super games like the France-Turkey overtime game – when you see so many spaces, it’s not conducive for the promotion of our sport.”

Placings set

On Saturday, Croatia overcame Montenegro 73-59 to earn fifth place and the last available spot in next summer’s Olympic qualifiers. While Lithuania defeated Latvia 75-56 in the seventh place play-off.

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