Basketballers win; now the game begins!

Belarusian women’s national basketball team reaches European Championship finals
By Valentin Orlov

In the final Group A round of the qualification tournament, hosted by Poland, the girls faced Ukraine. They had already gained a place at another European tournament, being held in France within the next year, and were keen to join the EuroBasket elite in the finals of the championship.

Despite being tired, our squad retained its precision, if attacking more rarely. The powerful Ukrainians took several shots at the net, but repeatedly missed, including from the penalty line. Meanwhile, Anastasia Veremeenko scored time and again. Modestly, she remarks, “You shouldn’t overestimate my merits. Everyone played their part, straining every sinew.”

Of course, questions remain, whose answers cannot be found on the last day before departure to Paris. Our Belarusian girls have passed through the qualification round, but not without great strain, even though their rivals — from Hungary, Portugal, Ukraine and Israel — are not of the highest level. Had our squad been defeated by the Ukrainians, the final result of the group would have been quite different. Saying this, the girls have strengths as well as weaknesses, which have become more obvious following these recent matches.

New coach Rimantas Grigas has been thrown by the large number of injuries on the squad, lacking enough reserve players. Meanwhile, the team is missing Yelena Levchenko, who continues her season with the female NBA. We cannot also help but wonder how hours spent in airports will affect the girls’ stamina, not to mention the organisational problems which have plagued our squad for several years now. Could these factors hamper our sporting ambitions? Naturally, we’ve withstood all difficulties so far and, despite tough challenges, our girls have reached the next stage; now, their goal is EuroBasket — of which Mr. Grigas must be thinking (although he claims not).

“It’s been very interesting to work with the team and, importantly, this has given us time to allow injured players to recover. We are pinning our hopes on Yelena Levchenko, who will help us greatly in the future. Next season, our younger players will also gain maturity. Believe me, we’ll be able to achieve much with time to improve our team play,” asserts Mr. Grigas.

Evidently, not everyone was ready for the burdens and approaches used by Mr. Grigas. Of course, the loss of any core player can create a crisis so we cannot blame Mr. Grigas for failing to gather enough reserve players. His time has been limited and the choice sparse. Mr. Grigas has done what was needed to reach the next stage of the EuroBasket tournament and can now show us of what he is truly capable.
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