This week marked the beginning of playoff action in the EuroCup, which features four rounds of two-legged aggregate-score matchups. In the eighth-finals, Storm players Le’coe Willingham and Tanisha Wright have seen their Elizur Ramla team drawn against Russian squad Dynamo. Thursday, Ramla hosted the opening game and took the early series lead with a 66-57 victory. Wright led the team with 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Willingham wasn’t hitting from the field, but did everything else well, adding eight rebounds, four assists and four steals to her 11 points.
Ramla opened up a 19-point lead after three quarters only to see Dynamo cut into the advantage in the final period. That’s crucial because every point counts in the aggregate format. Ramla will advance to the quarterfinals by winning next Thursday’s return leg in Moscow or losing by fewer than nine points.
Elsewhere on the continent, the Euroleague picked up after the holiday break with games Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, Ros Casares Valencia blew past Gorzow 86-52 to stay atop Group D. With a win next week at Frisco Sika Brno, Ros Casares will win the group. On Wednesday, Ros Casares pulled away from an outmatched Gorzow side by outscoring them 29-6 in the second quarter. Another dominant performance in the third gave Ros Casares a 40-point lead entering the final period. Trademark balance saw five Valencia players score double-figures and three more add at least six points. Jana Vesela had seven points, a season-high eight rebounds and a European career-high six blocks. Rebekkah Brunson paced the team in scoring with 16 points.
In Group C, Spartak Moscow Region stayed in the hunt for first place with Thursday’s 78-61 road win over French side Tarbes. Hot-shooting Spartak made 57.8 percent of its two-point attempts. Epiphanny Prince led the attack with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Sue Bird scored 12 points and had four steals in her first Euroleague action of the season. With a win next Wednesday at Halcon Avenida, Spartak would tie Avenida for first place in Group C with a 7-3 record plus sweep two head-to-head matchups, earning the tie-breaker.
In that game, Spartak will have the services of newly signed post Taj McWilliams, who has replaced Lauren Jackson on the team’s roster. While Jackson may return from an Achilles injury in time for the Euroleague Final Four, there was no guarantee based on the way Spartak has played this season that the team would still be alive for her to rejoin them. As a result, Spartak had to strengthen its roster by bringing in the WNBA and international veteran.