Fenerbahce banished the last year’s final disappointment on Saturday evening in Napoli on Friday evening. The Turkish side hosted the 2004 FIBA Europe Cup Women Final Four, but fell at the semi-final stage of the competition.
Here in Napoli on Saturday evening, Fenerbahce edged ZKK Croatia Zagreb 61-62 in a tight fought contest to advance to Sunday’s final.
It was Korana Longin’s 2 free throws at the 58 second mark that gave the Turks a 62-60 lead, and when Zagreb’s Razija Brcanninovic blew the first of her 2 free throw attempts on the next possession, Fenerbahce were able to hold on for victory, 62-61.
|Tiffani Johnson (Fenerbahçe)|
“We were sure we would win the game, but it was so hard because we made silly mistakes, unbelievable turnovers,” said Fenerbahce Head Coach Zafer Kalaycioglu after the game.
Fenerbahce committed 5 of their 9 turnovers in the last 5 minutes, allowing Zagreb to fight back from a 46-52 deficit to tie the game, 60-60 at the 1:48 mark.
Zagreb’s final chance came when Jelena Ivezic stole the ball from Nilay Yigit with 25 seconds remaining. Instead of holding the ball for one more offense, Mirna Paunovic took a quick three-pointer that missed the mark and gave the penultimate possession to Fenerbahce.
“We were not concentrated on that last offense and our player (Paunovic) took a very quick three-pointer,” explained Zagreb coach Viktor Kovac. “It would have been better if we had had a full offense at the end.”
Fenerbahce was the more composed team when it mattered. The Turkish team ended the first half with an 8-0 run, the first meaningful spurt of either side, which gave them a 24-30 halftime lead.
They also held Zagreb center Rajiza Brcaninovic to 13 points, 9 below her season average of 22 ppg.
“Ruzija had a bad game for us, I don’t know why. But they played great defense, sometimes with three players on her,” said Kovac.
Fenerbahce closed the third with an 11-4 burst to give them a 6-point cushion going into the final quarter (46-52), but sloppy play in the 4th period allowed Zagreb back in contention.
“The reason for our turnovers in the last minutes is because our point guards are so young,” said Kalaycioglu of Saziye Ivegin and Nilay Yigit who were guilty of losing the ball 8 times between them.
“But the difference between the two teams was we had more self confidence to win this game,” added Kalaycioglu.
That self confidence served them well in the last minute when despite their mistakes, they held on for the win.