As the Storm started training camp yesterday, basically half of the team’s roster remains overseas. Let’s update their status, focusing on when they might be finished with their commitments.
Saturday was Game 1 of the best-of-five Russian Superleague Finals, and UMMC Ekaterinburg pulled the upset on the road, limiting Spartak Moscow Region to 21 points in the second half of a 70-62 victory. Ekaterinburg did a phenomenal job of defending Spartak’s UConn backcourt. Sue Bird shot 3-of-11 from the field, scoring eight points, but was held to one assist. Diana Taurasi finished with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Spartak’s only consistent offensive force was Sylvia Fowles, who had 22 points and nine rebounds. Ekaterinburg was more balanced, with five players scoring at least eight points. Svetlana Abrosimova started but was scoreless in 24 minutes of action.
The series now heads to Ekaterinburg for Games 2 and 3 on Tuesday and Wednesday. If necessary, Spartak will host Games 4 and 5 on Saturday and Sunday. Whether the series goes four or five games, then, won’t make a big difference in return dates for Abrosimova and Bird, but they would be back much quicker if Ekaterinburg sweeps the series – which would definitely be a surprise.
The Lega Feminina finals also tipped off on Saturday, with host Ros Casares Valencia handing Halcon Avenida a 78-69 defeat. Belinda Snell (24 points) and DeLisha Milton-Jones (23) both had big offensive games, combining to knock down eight three-pointers in 12 attempts. Jana Vesela had five rebounds in 33 minutes of action. Sancho Lyttle led Avenida with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Le’coe Willingham scored seven points on 3-of-10 shooting, grabbing six rebounds.
Ros Casares will go for the sweep on Thursday in Avenida. If necessary, Game 3 will take place on Saturday in Valencia.
In Poland, the PLKK finals are tied at one apiece. AZS Gorzow defeated Tanisha Wright and Lotos Gdynia 78-74 in yesterday’s Game 1, but Lotos evened the series with an 80-72 win earlier today. Wright’s play was a big difference between the two outcomes. After a quiet Game 1 (four points), she exploded for 20 today on 5-of-12 shooting as well as six rebounds and four assists. Games 3 and 4 will be played Friday and Saturday. I can’t find a date for Game 5 online should the series go that far.
The Storm has two training camp invitees who finished up their season in Greece yesterday against each other. Laura Kurz led Ano Liosa’s 95-77 win over Panathinaikos with 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Lindsey Wilson had three points in 13 minutes. Still, Panathinaikos (which I suspect may already have clinched) won a three-way tie for third place in the A1 League, which does not have any postseason play, at 15-9. Ano Liosa finished 14-10 and in sixth place. Kurz ended the season the league’s leading scorer in terms of total points (414). Wilson was ninth, as well as seventh in assists. Kurz also was fourth in rebounding.
The other two Storm players who remain overseas are posts Abby Bishop and Lauren Jackson, who are participating in a training camp with the Australian Opals National Team. The camp, which will be the last opportunity for the Opals to train together prior to this fall and the World Championship, runs through Friday.
”One of the challenging things about the Opals program is our lack of time together, lack of the full group together,” Head Coach Carrie Graf told The Age. ”It’s really about maximising the time and putting in some of the team systems and building the foundation of what our culture and team themes are.”