Lots to catch up on as we’ve been busy thinking draft here at storm.wnba.com. Before we head overseas, congratulations are in order for former Storm Assistant Coach Heidi VanDeveer, who is the new head coach at Occidental College (HT: StormFans).
Moving to international play, the big story is the Euroleague Final Four, which got underway today in Brno, Czech Republic. Spartak advanced to the final this morning by defeating Russian rivals UMMC Ekaterinburg 78-68. Storm forward Lauren Jackson led the victory, scoring 35 points on 14-of-21 shooting and pulling down 12 rebounds. Teammate Sue Bird added four points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in 36 minutes. Tina Thompson also had 24 points for Spartak.
On Sunday, Spartak will take on the hosts, Gambrinus Brno, looking for a second consecutive Euroleague title. Brno beat Bourges Basket 90-81 in OT in the other semifinal matchup, getting 28 points from Zuzana Zirkova.
In Russian play, Spartak clinched a first-place regular-season finish in Superleague play with a dominant 86-63 win last Sunday over CSKA behind 25 points on 9-of-14 shooing from Bird. Jackson contributed 17 points and eight boards. Spartak takes on Kursk Dynamo in the best-of-three quarterfinals starting next Thursday.
I’m a little confused by the various postseason competitions in the Czech League, but they appear to be in their actual playoffs at the moment. Janell Burse’s USK Praha squad swept its semifinal matchup with Hradec Králové in easy fashion, winning Game 1 100-63 and Game 2 128-53. Burse combined for 31 points and 21 rebounds in the two games. Up next, USK Praha will face the winner of the Valosun Brno-Sparta Praha matchup in the semifinals. That series won’t wrap up until early next week, so it will be a while before USK Praha is back in action.
Polish postseason action saw Shyra Ely score 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting and pull down 10 rebounds in a 69-64 win by Finepharm AZS KK Jelenia Góra over MUKS Poznań.
In Greece, Katie Gearlds had a tough shooting night but her Athinaikos squad still defeated Aias Evosmou 77-67 last Sunday. Gearlds was just 1-of-8 from three-point range but contributed in other ways, pulling down six boards and handing out four assists. With two Sundays left in the regular season, Athinaikos is third in A1 play at 16-8.
Roneeka Hodges had 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting last Saturday, but saw her Gran Canaria team fall 74-65 to Rivas Futura in Spanisha Liga Femenina play. Gran Canaria is tied for eighth in the league at 9-14 with three weeks left to play. Hodges continues to lead the league in scoring at 19.9 points per game.
Sister Doneeka Lewis saw her Fiera di Roma Pomezia squad get swept 2-0 in Italian Serie A1 playout action. Lewis had 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting in Game 1 and 23 points (albeit on 8-of-24 shooting) in Game 2, but it was not enough against Italmoka Pozzuoli. Elsewhere, Phard Napoli, featuring Storm color analyst Adia Barnes, swept Lavezzini Parma to advance to the semis.
Safsal.com, the best source for coverage of the Israeli D1 league, named Tanisha Wright the league’s MVP and penned a great feature on her leading into the playoffs. Wright’s squad, Raanana Hertzeliya, fell behind 2-0 in the best-of-five semifinals series with Ramat Hen. However, they rallied to win Game 3 in blowout fashion, 95-69, on Thursday. Wright had 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in that game and has averaged 19.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in the three games so far. Game 4 is Monday at Ramat Hen.