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Jelena Dubljevic (MNE) - EuroBasket Women 2013
MNE - The free-throw shooter

LILLE (EuroBasket Women) - The strangest thing happened on Thursday when Montenegro took on Sweden at the EuroBasket Women.

In the Group E game, Jelena Dubljevic missed a free-throw.

Life, as we all know it, changed.

The world grew quiet.

Birds stopped chirping, dogs no longer barked and fans in the Lille arena sat in a stunned silence.

In her previous 78 minutes of action in France, during which Montenegro had beaten the Slovak Republic, lost to Turkey, defeated Ukraine and played the first half against Sweden, the 1.88m forward had drilled free-throw after free-throw.

When she stepped up to the line at the start of the second half against the Swedes, after being fouled by Ashley Key, Dubljevic had sunk 25 free-throws in a row.

She made the first attempt after the Key foul but then the second hit the rim and stayed out.

Dubljevic would end up making five of six at the charity stripe in the game, though, leaving her free-throwing percentage at a scintillating, tournament-best 96.6%.

Forget that one miss.

Dubljevic is like no other when she steps up to the line.

She excels in an area where so many other players in the sport endure an almighty struggle.

"I have a secret," she said to, "but I can't tell you."

Pressed on the matter on, Dubljevic said: "Okay, I do some special things. Well, not special. I just focus.

"I don't think too much.

"I take the ball, and I just take my time. I'm not in a rush.

"The key is not to think. If you think you are going to make it, or think you are going to miss it, then you're going to miss it. At least for me.

"Every time I used to think, 'I'm going to make it', I'd miss.

"If I take it without thinking, it goes in."

There are some players who spend as much as an hour in practice shooting free-throws.

There are others who spend even more time trying to make free-throws in training.

"I don't," she said.

"I always make myself shoot 10 in a row, that's all."

More important than anything, Dubljevic says, is the mind game.

"Players get scared," she said.

"I just think you need to believe in yourself, and that's it."

In some arenas, fans will do anything to make a free-throw shooter miss.

An opponent will sometimes walk up to the line and get in the face of a free-throw shooter, trying to distract them.

Coaches often call timeouts, hoping the break in play will lead to a missed free-throw.

"For me, I like it more when people are screaming and shouting," she said.

"I've just figured all this out myself. I found my way and it's working."

Montenegro lead the EuroBasket Women in the free-throw department.

They have made 72 in the tournament, and shot 90%.

Dubljevic does a lot of things well.

Opposing coach Lars Johansson has called Dubljevic "unstoppable.”

At the EuroBasket Women, she ranks first in scoring at 19.5 points per game, first in free-throws attempted (7.3pg), first in free-throws made (7.0), second in field goals made (6.3), third in field goal percentage (54.3%), fifth in assists (3.3) and sixth in offensive rebounds (2.8).

Because she is so good in so many different areas, Dubljevic rarely comes off the court.

She ranks second in minutes at 35.3 per game.

This excellence as an individual player means nothing to Dubljevic.

She only takes joy after the game when her team wins.

"Last year, we did an amazing job (in the Qualification Round) and it's really hard to repeat what we did two years ago," she said.

Montenegro surprised everyone by winning their first six games at the EuroBasket Women in Poland.

"It was 6-0, and we crossed with Turkey in the Quarter-Final which on paper was supposed to be good for us," she said.

Turkey upset Montenegro, though, and the team then later fell in the battle for fifth place to Croatia and missed out on the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women.

"Now, let's go step by step, enjoy step by step, give our best.

"Let's just give 200% in each game and see what happens.

"I hope we will get better as a team. I hope we also have some luck in the crucial moment."

Going into Saturday night's game against Spain, Montenegro were 2-2 at the EuroBasket Women and third in Group E.

They need to finish among the top four to reach the Quarter-Finals.

To qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women, Montenegro need a top-five finish.

If Turkey, the hosts of next year’s big event, finish in the top five, then the first six teams at the EuroBasket Women will qualify.


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