Sweet Little Sixteen

One of the Portuguese rock band, GNR, major hits was called “Under 16”. In the song, Rui Reininho, a famous Oporto songwriter, repeats that, when you are sixteen, you spend your days bored to have so little time to do everything you must do in life – and the near you are to complete ninety-six years old. Well, for the Portuguese players in Matosinhos – only ten minutes far from the Oporto downtown by car – sixteen was the perfect age to have one of the greatest basketball moments of their lives. And there’s more to come, they hope.

Maria Kostourkova, the U16 European Championship Women – Division B MVP, is a known name all over Europe, having helped Portugal with great performances in last years’ U18 and U16 competitions. She led the Portuguese team with dominating presence in the paint, while dreaming of achieving NBA, in the future. Daughter of two professional basketball players from Bulgaria – they both work as coaches with the Portuguese Federation, nowadays – she possesses the right DNA to progress in her career.

With Carolina Bernardeco having almost the same amount of responsibility on court – the point guard works as the real team leader, calling the plays and leading the team defensively, with impressive 3 steals per game averaged during the tournament. Carolina is herself, also part of a known basketball Portuguese family, being the youngest of three sisters. Joana, 23, and Filipa, 21, both played in the Portuguese League Finals, last season, with Joana’s Algés conquering the title against Filipa’s Quinta dos Lombos.

But there was more to Portugal than the players that were choose for the All-Tournament Team. With 3000 fans being present in every match of the team, having a full house with 4000 people in the Matosinhos Hall was one of the biggest moments of the Portuguese Basketball history. In a country where much of the Men’s League games struggle to have more than 200 spectators, organizing a tournament at this level was remarkable. A big number of children were present in the games and many of them – Guifoes and Desportivo Leça minibasket teams – were also part of the show, having the opportunity to show their skills during the Portuguese matches time outs and half time.

What about now, for the Portuguese girls? First, they have to cope with the new responsibilities. Maria Kostourkova and Chelsea Guimarães will be playing at the U18 European Championship Women – Division A, having to change their focus from being dominating presences in the paint to be the new girls on the block. Must of the players will also face, during the new season, more minutes in their teams, being called to play more at a Senior Level, both in the Liga Feminina and Division 1 games in Portugal.

In the near future, they will be looking to play at College or Top European teams, as did Ticha Penicheiro, one of the spectators in the tournament last days. They would not be sixteen anymore. But they will have plenty of time to live their dreams.

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