Elitzur Ramla lost last Thursday, but still won. Needing only to keep the final margin within 15 points to lay claim to an aggregate series victory over Athinaikos, Ramla ended up celebrating an 88-81 loss in Athens. The 15-point margin was never in much doubt as the game was close until the final minutes, when Athinaikos led by as many as nine points, but with just 12 seconds left to play.
Tanisha Wright had 19 points and five assists for Ramla, while Le’coe Willingham scored 18 points and grabbed five boards. The two players combined to make 17 of their 27 field-goal attempts. Shay Doron scored 20 more points and Rivi Grinboym came off the bench for an unexpected 20 of her own, making six three-pointers in seven attempts. The four players had 77 of Ramla’s 81 points.
Ramla advances to the finals of the EuroCup for the first time in club history. In 2008, Ramla lost in the semifinals. To win the EuroCup, Ramla will now have to defeat French side Arras, which knocked off Chevakata in the other semi, a much closer contest. Following a one-point win in the first leg, Arras advanced by tying the second game 67-67 on Johanne Gomis‘ late jumper. Arras’ lone American is Leilani Mitchell, the New York Liberty point guard who is a native of Richland, Wash. Post Pauline Akonga, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tops Arras in both scoring (17.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.6 rpg).
The series begins next Thursday, March 17, in Israel with the second leg the following Thursday, March 24, in France.
As for the Euroleague Final Four, we now know where it will be held – Ekaterinburg, Russia from April 8-10.
The Grand Final matchup is also set in Australia’s WNBL, where the Canberra Capitals earned a rematch against the Bulleen Boomers by defeating the feisty Bendigo Spirit 83-78 in Saturday’s Preliminary Final. Canberra led by 10 with two minutes to play before Bendigo used a 6-0 spurt to cut the deficit to four with 45 seconds left on the clock. The comeback effort fell short, however, and the Capitals advanced behind three 20-point scorers (Jessica Bibby, Marianna Tolo and Carly Wilson, who scored 21). Alison Lacey added 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Kristi Harrower scored 26 points for the Spirit but needed 28 shots to get there and missed a key late attempt. Bulleen, which beat Canberra in the major semifinal a week ago, will host Sunday’s Grand Final hoping for the first league championship in club history. The Capitals have the major edge in terms of history, having won four of the last five titles and two in a row, but the Boomers have been the league’s strongest team this year behind star center Elizabeth Cambage.
The Euroleague teams are finally back in action in their domestic leagues. In Spain, Halcon Avenida blew out Extrugasa 73-46 while Ros Casares Valencia had a tougher time in a 74-67 win over Girona FC. Erika de Souza had 16 points and six rebounds for Avenida, which opened up its rotation, while Belinda Snell handed out a pair of assists in nine minutes. Girona got out to an early 24-17 lead before Ros Casares regained the upper hand after halftime. Jana Vesela contributed a balanced line of four points, five rebounds and four assists and Katie Douglas paced Ros Casares with 18 points and six rebounds.
Over in Russia, Sparta&K delivered a lopsided 81-42 victory over Dynamo-GUVD. The game got out of hand after halftime, when Sparta&K held a remarkable 38-8 advantage. Sue Bird scored about as much as you’ll see her do for Sparta&K, putting up 18 points in 26 minutes thanks to 4-of-6 shooting beyond the arc. Ilona Korstin had 10 points and seven rebounds. UMMC Ekaterinburg went to the final quarter trailing Dynamo Kursk by eight points only to win going away thanks to a 27-9 margin in the fourth. Ekaterinburg got 20 points and seven rebounds from Candace Parker. Svetlana Abrosimova scored two points and handed out a pair of assists.
In the Polish PLKK, last weekend was devoted to the Polish Cup. Wisla Can-Pack Krakow was unexpectedly knocked out in the semifinals by Torun Energa, 67-64. A huge effort by Vera Perostiyska, who scored 27 points on 13-of-17 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, helped do in Wisla. Erin Phillips had 12 points, three rebounds and three assists. Lotos Gdynia went on to defeat Torun and defend their Polish Cup title.