Lots of recent events to catch up on, so let’s not waste any time.
We start in Russia, where the Cup of Russia was contested last week, Superleague teams taking a break from regular-season play. Spartak finished third, defeating Kursk Dynamo 75-62 in the quarterfinals before falling to CSKA Moscow 71-62 in the semis. Spartak rallied to take third by beating Moscow Dynamo 83-70. CSKA Moscow went on to defeat UMMC Ekaterinburg for the championship. Sue Bird was arguably Spartak’s most consistent performer, averaging 13.3 points and 5.0 assists in the three games. Lauren Jackson averaged 8.7 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Looking ahead, there are less than two weeks and three games remaining in the Superleague regular season, which wraps up April 6. It’s April 11, however, that is the big date forthcoming on the Spartak calendar. That’s when they’ll take on Ekaterinburg in Brno, Czech Republic for the Euroleague Final Four, with the Euroleague championship set for two days later.
Brno is the hometown of Gambrinus Brno, the archrival for Janell Burse’s USK Praha squad, and the two teams faced off today in Prague. Despite 20 points and nine rebounds from Burse, who shot 8-of-16 from the field, USK fell 65-58. Teammate Lindsay Whalen shot just 2-of-11 from the field. Brno has won all four head-to-head matchups this season (two during the regular season, two during the current double round-robin playoff-type competition, which involves four teams) – all four defeats USK has suffered in Czech play. Last year, Burse blogged about USK defeating Brno for the first time ever in the club’s history. USK has one last game left in the double round-robin, Friday against Karlovy Vary.
In Poland, Shyra Ely’s Finepharm AZS KK Jelenia Góra squad fell 70-61 to Cukierki Odra Brzeg today. Ely had 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds in the loss. In 10 games since joining the team midseason, she has averaged 10.3 points and 8.9 rebounds.
Katie Gearlds scored 15 points, including three three-pointers, but it wasn’t enough as her Athinaikos squad lost 74-66 to Panathinaikos Sunday in a contest that had to be very confusing to broadcast. Gearlds added four rebounds, playing all 40 minutes. With four weeks left in the regular season, Athinaikos is in a three-way tie for third place in the Greek A1 league.
The Italian A1 league last played Saturday, when Doneeka Lewis scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting but her Fiera di Roma Pomezia squad fell 87-62 to Famila Schio. Elsewhere, Adia Barnes had 13 points and Astou Ndiaye-Diatta 12 in Phard Napoli’s 73-62 loss to Lavezzini Parma. Next Sunday will be the last weekend of the regular season. At 17-8, Napoli is in fourth place while Fiera di Roma is in 12th.
In Israel, the D1 league is preparing for postseason action. At 16-5, Tanisha Wright’s Ranaana Hertzliya won a tie-breaker with Electra Ramat Hasharon for first place and will have home-court advantage in a best-of-three series with Maccabi Ramat Hen. Ranaana Hertzliya will host games next Monday and April 7, with Ramat Hen hosting a game April 10.
Wright finished as the league’s leading assister at 6.2 apg, fifth in the league in scoring at 21.5 ppg, second in steals at 3.2 spg and fourth in three-point percentage (46.7%).
Competing the blog we started last week, the U.S. Senior Women’s National Team completed its training in Spain Thursday by taking on Spanish side Perfumerías Avenida. The U.S. rallied from a seven-point deficit going into the fourth quarter to force overtime and ultimately prevailed, 69-66, in the extra session. In 13 minutes of action, Storm forward Swin Cash contributed two points and two rebounds.
The NCAA Tournament tipped off over the weekend, and with the Sweet Sixteen set, I hope your bracket looks better than mine does. The right side is in terrific shape – I got all eight Sweet Sixteen teams correct over there, but just half of the eight teams on the other side of the bracket (the one- and two-seeds, natch). With Cal getting upset at the buzzer by George Washington, Kate Paye at Stanford is the only member of the Storm Coaching Network still alive in the tournament, though there are still plenty of alma maters, including favorites UConn and Tennessee.
In Australia, Jackson is now featured in a TV commercial for RADD (Recording Artists, Actors and Athletes Against Drink Driving).
“It is really upsetting and painful for those involved, and the friends and family,” Jackson told the Herald Sun, citing experience with those she knew growing up in Albury killed in crashes. “It made me think twice. I can’t even have one drink and drive.
“I am too paranoid to do that. I couldn’t risk me, my family, my friends or anybody else on the road. I just couldn’t live with myself.”