The Russian Superleague Playoffs kicked off today and yesterday, and the Storm players involved got off to winning starts. Spartak is a heavy favorite against Kursk Dynamo and played like that in today’s Game 1, cruising to an 86-57 victory. Lauren Jackson (19 points, eight boards) and Sue Bird (17, six assists) were the leading scorers for Spartak before calling it a night early. Even with Sylvia Fowles sitting out and Diana Taurasi quiet, five Spartak players reached double-figures.
Dynamo Moscow has a battle on its hands against Nadezhda, but went on the road to earn a 71-60 Game 1 victory. Janell Burse, who had 10 points and seven rebounds, joined three other Dynamo players in scoring double-digits, led by 19 from Anete Jekabsone-Zogota. The real key to the win, however, was defense. Nadezhda’s Betty Lennox needed 19 shots to score 16 points, and Shameka Christon was held to six points on 2-of-16 shooting. As a team, Nadezhda shot 30.0 percent from the field.
Game 2 of the quarterfinal series will be played Thursday, with Spartak going on the road and Dynamo coming home to look for the sweep.
Elsewhere overseas …
Semifinals series wrapped up over the weekend in Ireland, and both Kristen O’Neill and newcomer Mel Thomas saw their teams eliminated. O’Neill’s UL Aughnish squad needed a win by 14 or more points to take the aggregate series and looked good early, leading by 12 after one quarter. Though the Aughnish won 66-61 on Saturday, Team Hotel Montenotte Cork still took the series on aggregate. Thomas scored 17 points, but her Bausch and Lomb Waterford Wildcats squad was too far behind to ever seriously threaten DCU Mercy.
A key game in Italy saw first-place Cras Basket Taranto take on second-place Famila Wuber Schio. Despie playing at home, Taranto was upset by Schio 78-66. Laura Macchi (remember her from L.A.?) scored a game-high 20 points. Suzy Batkovic had a solid game in the loss, scoring 12 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Ashley Robinson had a big outing in Turkey, scoring 22 points, pulling down nine rebounds and blocking three shots. All of that led her TED Kayseri Koleji squad to a 77-70 triumph over Samsun Basketbol.
In Spain, Ibiza-PDV moved above .500 by beating Gran Canaria 76-64 on Saturday. Shannon Johnson powered the team effort from the point, contributing 10 points, six assists and five rebounds.