It should come as no surprise that Russians Nadezhda are in the EuroCup Women Final.
|Vladimir Koloskov brings lots of experience to the ambitious Orenburg program |
Under the leadership of veteran coach Vladimir Koloskov, who has a very talented roster of players, the Orenburg club has been flying high all season both in Russia's top flight and in Europe.
With 10 wins and four defeats, the Orenburg team finished third in the Superleague Women Regular Season behind only Spartak Moscow Region and UMMC Ekaterinburg (both 12-1).
On Wednesday night, Nadezhda claimed a 1-0 lead in their play-off Quarter-Final showdown with Novosibirsk after a 66-59 home triumph.
Nadezhda, which in English means "hope", have been hoping for big things since it was founded back in 1994.
It has gradually become one of the leading sides in the country.
The club has been in the elite league of Russian women's basketball since 2000
Last season, Nadezhda played in the EuroLeague Women.
The team won just two of its 10 Qualifying Round games and finished last in Group A, but looks can be deceiving.
Nadezhda lost their first two games to Wisla Can-Pack Krakow and Halcon Avenida by a combined total of four points.
The inexperience in Europe's elite competition led to more setbacks.
Nadezhda hasn't been perfect in the EuroCup Women, but they've been very, very good.
They survived two close shaves on their way to the Final where Sony Athinaikos await them.
Here is how Nadezhda booked their ticket.
|Oxana Zakalyuzhnaya posts up her Botas Spor opponent|
Nadezhda finished top of Group I with three wins and just one setback.
Koloskov's team rolled to a 90-64 triumph over Botas Spor after getting 26 points from Olga Ovcharenko.
Nadezhda then blew a big fourth-quarter advantage but held on for a 69-67 victory at Baschet ICIM in Arad, Romania.
Belarus star Anastasiya Veremeenko had 17 points and 11 rebounds in that victory.
After falling in Turkey to Botas Spor, 87-80, Nadezhda returned home and thrashed the Baschet ICIM 85-54 to win their group.
Veremeenko excelled again with 18 points and nine rebounds, but the player that caused most of the headaches for the Romanian club was Sheana Mosch.
ICIM boss Ioanis Diamantakos made a comment after that contest that should have served as a warning for the rest of the teams in the competition.
He said: "Nadezhda is a very good team and it deserved victory. Sheana Mosch was especially dangerous."
Mosch had 19 points and five assists. She would go on to lead the club in scoring in the EuroCup and also make the big plays in their Semi-Final triumph over Saarlouis Royals.
Nadezhda had to travel to Armenia for the opening leg of their tie with HATIS Yerevan and got a dominating effort from their 33-year-old center, Oxana Zakalyuzhnaya.
The veteran had a Dwight Howard-like performance, scoring 25 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
Small forward Ovcharenko also came up big with game, contributing 22 points.
In the second leg, Nadezhda didn't lower the boom on their opponents until the second quarter when they outscored YereTheyvan 25-18 to seize a 39-35 lead.
They cruised to an 80-65 triumph to reach the next stage.
Mosch had a game-high 25 points and there was another telling contributionmade by the Russia veteran Elena Baranova, who had 17 rebounds to go with her nine points.
|Olga Ovcharenko is another reliable player in Nadehda's big rotation|
The clash between Nadezhda and Spanish outfit Mann Filter Zaragoza had the makings of the best tie of the Eighth-Finals.
So it proved to be.
Nadezhda only won the first leg in Orenburg, 80-70, and had to pull out all stops in Spain to avoid exiting the competition early.
Four times in the fourth quarter the Spanish side opened up a four-point lead to pull to within two points of Nadezhda on aggregate.
On three of Nadezhda's ensuing possessions, Mosch replied with free-throws to prevent Zaragoza from getting any closer.
On the fourth, with 19 seconds remaining, Belarus international Veremeenko sank a pair from the charity stripe to reduce the home side's lead to 77-71.
Zaragoza ended up winning the second leg, 78-72.
Nadezhda, with Mosch making 14 of 16 free-throws and scoring a game-high 25 points, advanced to the last eight with a 152-148 win on aggregate.
Nadezhda grabbed the upper hand of their next tie with KV Imperial AEL by winning the opening leg in Cyprus, 72-64.
Tatiana Burik led a balanced Russian attack with 20 points.
There were some nervous moments.
AEL led 45-41 with just under seven minutes to go in the third quarter.
A Burik three-pointer knotted the contest at 50-50 with 3:19 to go in the frame and Belarus international Katsiaryna Snytsina, Veremeenko's Belarus international teammate, followed with a lay-up to put the visitors in front to stay.
AEL refused to roll over and took the lead in the tie when grabbing a 37-27 advantage late in the first half of the second leg.
The Cypriot club then took a three-point lead on aggregate when Chamique Holdsclaw scored late in the third quarter for a 51-40 advantage.
|Monique Currie was the latest addition to the roster and proved to be a difference maker right away|
Monique Currie stopped the bleeding for Nadezhda, scoring four straight points to give her side a one-point edge over the two legs heading into the last quarter.
She buried a jumper at the start of the fourth quarter to keep the pressure on and ended up scoring a game-high 30 points as the Russian outfit came from behind to win 66-61 and advance to the last four.
Saarlouis Royals gave Nadezhda fits in the opening leg in Germany, but Mosch once again came to the fore.
With the scored knotted at 52-52 midway through the fourth quarter, Mosch erupted for seven straight points.
She made three lay-ups in a row, drawing a foul on the last of them and turning it into a three-point play.
In the second leg back in Orenburg, the Russian team rolled to an 81-51 victory with Veremeenko scoring 14 points, pulling down eight rebounds, dishing out three assists and swatting two shots.
Nadezhda v Sony Athinaikos, First Leg, Orenburg - April 1
Sony Athinaikos v Nadezhda, Second Leg, Athens - April 8
Part two of the EuroCup Women Finals Preview, focussing on Greek power house Athinaikos and their chances of bringing home the trophy!