With our attention focused on the draft last week, we were remiss in not checking in on the action overseas, including the conclusion of the prestigious Euroleague on Sunday, April 10. In a matchup of future Storm teammates, Belinda Snell’s Halcon Avenida team knocked off Sue Bird and Sparta&K Moscow Region 68-59, ending Sparta&K’s four-year run as Euroleague champs and claiming the title of best in Europe for the first time in team history.
Just to get to the finals after losing Lauren Jackson, Sparta&K had to pull off several upsets. The heart of a champion surfaced again when Sparta&K rallied from a 20-point deficit to get within six with 1:45 to play. Avenida ended the Sparta&K rally at the free throw line, knocking down all 10 shots they attempted to account for all their scoring the remainder of the game. Anke De Mondt alone went 6-for-6.
Bird was one of three players who accounted for almost all of Sparta&K’s scoring, putting up 16 points. Taj McWilliams had 17 points and 11 boards and Epiphanny Prince added 12. Alba Torrens was named Final Four MVP after scoring 13 points. Point guard Silvia Dominguez came up with a big 16 points for Avenida, with Sancho Lyttle (11 points, 13 rebounds) controlling the paint and plenty of role players contributing. Snell had seven points, five rebounds and two steals.
- On the same day Avenida was celebrating, EuroCup titlists Elizur Ramla were adding an Israeli D I championship to complete the triple (which also included the State Cup). Ramla finished off a three-game sweep of Maccabi Ashdod in the finals with a 76-58 win on April 10 and went a perfect 9-0 in the postseason. For her role in Ramla’s success, Tanisha Wright was picked by coaches as league MVP in voting put together by Safsal.co.il. Le’coe Willingham also got an MVP vote and joined Wright on the all-league first team.
- The Polish PLKK wrapped up its finals yesterday, when Wisla Can-Pack Krakow defeated CCC Polkowice 52-50 to wrap up a 3-1 victory on the best-of-five series. Finals MVP Yelena Leuchanka averaged 17.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, while Storm newcomer Erin Phillips put up 11.8 points and 4.0 boards.
“I am very happy,” said Phillips (as loosely translated from Polish). “The whole team we worked so hard! In addition, Sunday’s game was very difficult. It was worth giving it everything, because the taste of the championship is great!”
- That leaves just two leagues in action with Storm players. The Russian Superleague Finals kick off Sunday, and to no one’s surprise they pit Sparta&K against UMMC Ekaterinburg. Yesterday, Sparta&K needed overtime to complete a two-game sweep of Nadezhda, winning 70-68 behind McWilliams’ go-ahead three-point play with 44 seconds left int he game. Irina Osipova rebounded a missed Bird free throw to allow Sparta&K to run out the clock and secure the win. Bird scored a game-high 19 points and handed out six assists. Osipova added 11 points and Prince 10. Ekaterinburg has home-court advantage for the finals, which will wrap up no later than May 2.
- The finals are also set for the Liga Feminina, where Avenida will meet Ros Casares Valencia after both teams swept their best-of-three semifinal series. They had to work for it on the road over the weekend, however, winning by six points apiece. Avenida trailed going into the final period, but outscored Rivas Ecopolis 20-8 over the last 10 minutes to come back and win, 66-60. Avenida’s frontcourt of Erika De Souza and Sancho Lyttle combined for 27 points and 17 rebounds, with Torrens scoring 16 points and Snell contributing seven.