This week was the last round of Euroleague action before teams in Europe break so that players can head home for the holidays. There was plenty of drama, including yesterday’s announcement that Ros Casares Valencia has sacked coach Natalia Hejkova despite being tied atop Group A with an 8-2 record. Expectations are sky high in Valencia with a star-studded roster including Storm star Lauren Jackson, and the pressure on new head coach Roberto Iniguez will only grow when Ros Casares adds Maya Moore to the lineup after then new year.
Hejkova went out with a comfortable 84-70 home win over Lotos Gdynia. Jackson returned to the bench and scored seven points in 19 minutes. Jana Vesela, back in the starting lineup, scored 10 points and handed out five assists. Ann Wauters scored a game-high 21 points and point guard Laia Palau was terrific, scoring 14 points and handing out 13 assists. Shay Murphy added 17 points and seven boards. Aneika Henry, who was briefly in training camp with the Storm, had 14 points and seven rebounds for Lotos.
The week’s big game was in Ekaterinburg, where UMMC played host to Turkish power Galatasaray. Ekaterinburg seized control of the game in the third quarter, outscoring Galatasaray 22-11, then withstood a rally that got the lead down to just four in the closing minutes to win 85-80. Diana Taurasi scored 28 points for Galatasaray and Tina Charles had a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds, but UMMC countered with impressive depth. Six players scored at least seven points, led by 17 from Candace Parker, who also grabbed seven boards. Svetlana Abrosimova again sat out due to her Achilles injury. The win kept Ekaterinburg just a game back of Group A leaders Ros Casares and Galatasaray with four games left in group play.
Ewelina Kobryn had her best Euroleague outing of the season in a 77-64 road win over BLMA. Kobryn was nearly perfect from the field, making 10 of her 11 shot attempts en route to 25 points in 24 minutes as she dealt with foul trouble. Wisla Can-Pack Krakow, which trailed early, took the lead in the second quarter and pulled away down the stretch for the win. Milka Bjelica had 20 points and six assists and Erin Phillips scored 16 points for Wisla. BLMA was led by 18 points from Edwige Lawson.
Frisco Brno fell 82-63 in Italy to Cras Basket Taranto. Ashley Robinson was strong in the loss, scoring 12 points and collecting 11 rebounds. Romana Hedjova scored 17 and Jasmine Thomas had 16 for Frisco, but the rest of the team combined for just 18 points. Michelle Greco scored 15 for Taranto, which got a double-double (14 points, 13 boards) from Kia Vaughn.
Over in the EuroCup, group play is over and the eighth-finals will start after the break. Elizur Ramla and Tanisha Wright, after going a perfect 4-0 in Group H, are seeded third and will face Turkish club Kayseri Kaskispor in a two-game, aggregate series. The two legs will be played on Jan. 12 and Jan. 19.