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03/07/2011

LODZ (EuroBasket Women) - Russia cruised to a 59-42 win over Turkey in the Final of EuroBasket Women for their first European title since 2007 and in the process secured their automatic qualification for next year's London Olympics.

As they had done when the two teams met in the Preliminary Round, the Russians got off to a quick start, storming to a 19-8 first quarter lead and did not trail the rest of the way.

The Turks put on a brave performance but the fatigue - both mental and physical - from their 68-62 overtime Semi-Final win over defending champions France was visibly a factor.

Tournament MVP Elena Danilochkina had 12 points and team-mate Maria Stepanova went for 18 to go with 12 rebounds in the winning effort.

The gold medal finish saw Boris Sokolovsky's charges book their automatic place for the 2012 Olympic Basketball Tournament.

Turkey, France, the Czech Republic and Croatia will be the four European representatives in next year's Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

This is the third time in a row that Russia has qualified automatically for the Olympics by virtue of being crowned European champions.

They accomplished the feat in 2003 to feature in Athens and then again in 2007 to punch their ticket for Beijing and came away with bronze medals at both Olympiads.

After the game, Sokolosky stressed the necessity for his team to get that one precious berth.

"It's very important to get the automatic place if you can because you don't know what can happen at the qualifying tournament," he said.

"If you have some injured players, or if you have difficult match-ups. Nothing is guaranteed.

He also took time to pay tribute to his team's opponents on the day.

"I would like to congratulate Turkey for their results here at this tournament. They have played very well," he said.

"The final score does not show how well they have played in this tournament. Today they were tired because of Friday's game."

Turk Nevin Nevlin explained that the silver medal will do so much for women's basketball in Turkey.

"This is the first time in our history that we win a medal in women's basketball, so we're extremely happy and proud.

"We are going to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament and that was the goal we had in mind in our preparations, so we've reached our target.

"We didn't play the way we wanted to in the Final but Russia are a tough team. They got the gold medal for a reason."

Nevlin expressed her pride at the way in which her team bounced back from a poor start to the tournament.

Ceyhyn Yildizoglu's charges lost three of their first four games and were on the verge of elimination in the Second Round before reeling off four wins in a row to get into the Gold Medal Game.

"We weren't playing together at the start but we dug down deep, came together and turned things around," said Nevlin.

"I'm very proud of the girls and how they responded in the face of that. Who would have thought after we started 1-3 that we would be silver medalists."

The Russian pair of Danilochkina and Stepanova headlined the the All-Tournament Team and were joined by Turkey captain Nevriye Yilmaz, Croatia skipper Sandra Mandir and Eva Viteckova of the Czech Republic.

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