The last week before the European leagues break for the holidays was a critical one. In EuroCup, teams completed their two-game aggregate 16th-final playoff series, while the Euroleague played the last week of group action. In every case, the results were positive ones for teams with Storm ties.
Let’s start in the EuroCup, where K.V. Imperial AEL faced the toughest challenge. As the lower-seeded team, Imperial had to go on the road for the conclusion of the series, needing to win or lose by three points or fewer. Indeed, Imperial pulled off the 79-70 win to take the series 141-128. Shyra Ely, who had to leave the first game just after halftime because she suffered whiplash, led the way with 15 points and 14 boards.
“It’s a big win for our team and our country (Cyprus),” said Imperial coach Linos Gavriel. “It was a great collective win. We congratulate Rivas for their participation and now we want to continue making history against Galatasaray.”
Katie Gearlds and Athinaikos were in comfortable shape coming home up 11 points, but still in danger of being knocked out. Any worry was short-lived, as Athinaikos defeated SK Cesis 90-72 to advance. Gearlds’ 23 points led all scorers, and she knocked down five three-pointers while shooting 9-of-14 from the field.
Dynamo Moscow, the top seed, cruised to a 164-115 aggregate win, taking Thursday’s matchup with the Solna Vikings 89-57. Janell Burse had 12 points and six boards, adding three steals and a pair of blocks on defense. Teammate Oxana Zakalyuzhnaya deserves a tip of the cap for her 26-point, 14-rebound effort.
Lastly, for some scheduling reason, Tarbes finished up its series a week early, beating Baschet ICIM 96-52 in the home leg. The final 206-110 margin was easily the largest in any of the aggregate series. With advancement well in hand, Tanisha Wright played a quiet 13 minutes in game two, finishing with two points and two assists.
EuroCup will resume play with the Eighth-finals on Jan. 29 and Feb. 5.
Nothing was on the line for Spartak Moscow Region this week, the team having already assured itself the top spot in Group D. Still, in a matchup of the best and worst the group had to offer, Spartak clocked Lattes Montpellier 103-48 at home. Ho hum. Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson were two of the five Spartak players to score double-figures, Bird posting 11 points and five assists and Jackson scoring 13 points.
The bigger matchup was in Prague, where ZVVZ USK Praha was hopoing to secure a spot in the postseason with a chance to move up to third in Group C. USK Praha’s 69-64 win over Lotos Gdynia was enough to achieve the first goal, but not the second. Lotos still took third place in the group because of point differential, as USK Praha would have needed a win of 14 points or more to move past Lotos. Swin Cash had eight points and six rebounds in the win as part of a balanced scoring attack.
So the good news is that USK Praha plays on. The bad news is that a fourth-place finish in Group C means drawing the winner of Group D … which, as you read a moment ago, is the Spartak juggernaut. USK Praha will face a tall order trying to pull off the upset when the Euroleague playoffs commence Jan. 27 and Storm teammates collide overseas.