KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic – Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus was waiting in the locker room to celebrate the country's biggest women's basketball win.
Klaus, a former basketball player, watched as the Czechs knocked off defending champion Australia 79-68 Friday night in the world champion quarterfinals.
"We talked after the game," Czech coach Lubor Blazek said. "He was proud of what we had accomplished."
Eva Viteckova scored 27 points and Hana Horakova added 21 for the host nation, which will play Belarus in the semifinals on Saturday. Belarus upset top-seeded Russia earlier on Friday.
"It was an honor to have the President at our side," Viteckova said.
Leading 52-51, the Czech's opened the final quarter with a 11-2 run. Horakova hit back-to-back 3s to start the period and Viteckova capped the spurt with a 3 that gave them a 63-53 lead. That ignited the spirited home crowd.
Australia tried to mount a comeback, but could only get within six in the final 2 minutes.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Czech players piled onto each other underneath the basket to celebrate, while the 5,000-plus fans proudly waved their red and white flags and tooted their vuvuzelas.
"We weren't sure how many people would come to such an event," Viteckova said. "We got the experience in Brno and the fans were fantastic. We were surprised that the local fans were here."
Liz Cambage scored 22 points to lead Australia while Lauren Jackson added 13. The WNBA MVP had a rough game, missing her first seven shots en route to a 3-for-15 performance. Her All-Star teammate Penny Taylor had an even tougher time, making just 2 of 15.
"We just didn't make shots," said Taylor, nearly in tears. "They played a great game tonight."
With their two stars struggling, Australia had little chance to beat the Czechs.
"It was just one of those things where we couldn't buy a basket and they couldn't miss," Australia coach Carrie Graf said. "It's disappointing."
The loss marked the first time since 1994 that the Aussies wouldn't be getting a medal in a major international basketball event.
The Czech's led by three at the half and scored the first seven points of the third quarter, capped by Horakova's 3-pointer with 7:44 left that made it 42-32 and brought the fans to their feet.
Jackson tried to rally the Aussie's back, hitting her first shot of the game midway through the second half. It got Australia within 47-42, but Viteckova made a 3 to restore the 10-point edge.
Every time the Australians rallied, either Viteckova or Horakova responded.
"Hats off to them. Every run we made, they answered by making shot after shot," Jackson said. "We just couldn't stop them."
(This version CORRECTS spelling of president's last name to Klaus, restores details and quotes.)