Congratulations to Lauren Jackson, Jana Vesela and Ann Wauters, who helped lead Ros Casares Valencia to a EuroLeague title with Sunday’s 65-52 win over Rivas Ecopolis. Ros Casares actually trailed its Spanish rivals at halftime, but dominated the second half, allowing just four points in the final quarter to pull away. Amaya Valdemoro’s jumper with 7:09 remaining to bring Rivas within one would be the team’s final score, as Valencia scored the game’s last 12 points. Rivas shot just 36.1 percent from the field, including 1-of-9 from beyond the arc.
The Storm’s starting frontcourt played a key role in that performance. Jackson had just two points and two rebounds, but Ros Casares outscored Rivas by nine points during her 28 minutes on the floor. Wauters had 12 points and six rebounds, Sancho Lyttle led Valencia with 18 points and Silvia Dominguez scored 13 more. Final Eight MVP Asjha Jones (14) was the only Rivas player to reach double-figures.
Valencia earned its first championship under the current EuroLeague title and followed Halcon Avenida to keep the title in Spain for a second consecutive year. Jackson won her third, having won the EuroLeague twice with Sparta&K and Wauters added this to three previous triumphs, two for Valenciennes and one for VBM-SGAU.
Sue Bird and UMMC Ekaterinburg were able to take third place by beating Fenerbahce 75-68 in what was a two-point game up through the final minute. Bird scored nine points, all from beyond the arc, and handed out three assists. Sandrine Gruda led Ekaterinburg with 18 points and Candace Parker had 16 points and 11 boards.
Host Galatasaray took fifth place with a 73-71 win over Sparta&K, and Beretta-Famila Schio topped Wisla Can-Pack Krakow 65-62 for seventh place despite six points, six rebounds and four assists from Ewelina Kobryn.
The first year of the Final Eight format produced some good games and a surprising run by a Rivas Ecopolis team that would have been likely to make the Final Four, but unfortunately it may be remembered more for injuries than anything else. Fortunately, Bird was able to return after breaking her nose, but Maria Stepanova and Penny Taylor both suffered more serious knee injuries. Stepanova tore her ACL and will miss the Olympics. That same fate could befall Taylor, but doctors are waiting for the swelling to go down before determining the extent of the damage to her ACL. The injuries cast a pall over the proceedings in Istanbul.