By Paul Nilsen
Croatian playmaker Andja Jelavic has described EuroCup Women as a ‘beautiful title' as she prepares to suit up for Kayseri Kaskispor in the first leg of this season's final against Dynamo Kursk (watch live on FIBA Europe TV).
The experienced guard was brought in by the Turkish club during the middle of their European campaign after completing a lengthy rehabilitation from a serious injury sustained a year ago.
Not surprisingly, the veteran loves life in her new home of Kayseri and it has certainly been a dream return to action - something which has given her an additional motivation to repay her employers by ensuring they are crowned champions.
"EuroCup Women means a lot because it is such a great competition and it would be so nice to have such a beautiful title in my career" explained Jelavic.
"All the girls are eagerly awaiting the match and we would all be very happy to win it. Not only for ourselves, but also because of all the people at the club and also for our great fans who cheer us during all the games."
She added, "Winning the EuroCup Women title would be a big thank to everyone in Kayseri who love women's basketball!"
Despite losing twice to Dynamo Kursk during the group phase earlier in the season, Kayseri have shown they are capable of winning some big games.
According to Jelavic this will give them confidence against their powerful Russian opponent.
She said, "I arrived later in the season and then right away, we played and won an important match against Elitzur Ramla, the winner of last year's EuroCup Women title.
"And of course, this is the second strongest competition in terms of quality after EuroLeague Women and so far, we have managed to pass everything and so I hope that in these final two games, we will play well.
"Kursk is a very good team who has been playing together for a long time. They have some very good and experienced players in each position" continued Jelavic.
"So far, they haven't lost a single match in EuroCup Women but we are very good team and for them, it will not be easy to play on our court and in front of our crowd."
"I think it will be important to be focused on the game and the assignments which we all have to follow.
"We have to make sure we stay cool."
|Anna Petrakova has led a balanced Dynamo Kursk team in scoring throughout their EuroCup Women campaign|
SEASON SO FAR: Kayseri Kaskispor have made this year's final despite winning only half of their 12 games. They have won six, lost five and tied one contest. They lost 90-73 in Kursk and 75-66 at home to the final opponents. In the Turkish league, they are an impressive third place with a 14 and 7 record behind powerhouse duo Galatasaray Medical Park and Fenerbahce.
Dynamo Kursk is the only unbeaten team in EuroCup Women having attained perfection with 12 wins from their 12 games. However, after some rampant displays earlier in the season, things have been much closer since the end of the initial group phase, winning their last four games by single digits. Just like Kayseri, Kursk also are third in their own respective domestic league behind a powerhouse duo in Sparta&K M. R. Vidnoje and UMMC Ekaterinburg with a 12 and 5 record.
BY THE NUMBERS: Clear favourites Dynamo Kursk dominate the statistical categories, perhaps showing the size of the task ahead for Kayseri Kaskispor. The Russian team has scored more points than any other club this season with 79.4 per game and have given up just 60.8 points per game. Critically, Kursk also show their all-round strength and intensity from the fact they average more assists and more steals than anyone else in EuroCup Women this season.
However, the Turkish side can take some heart and confidence that they have slightly better three-point and free-throw shooting percentages while there is only a negligible difference between both teams in their respective performances on the glass.
THE HOT HANDS: Latoya Sanders has been remarkable for Kayseri Kaskispor. Incredibly, she leads her team in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots. She has registered six double-doubles which has contributed to a season double-double of 16.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Perhaps most impressively, she leads the tournament in blocked shots with a phenomenal 3.4 blocks per game.
For Dynamo Kursk, Anna Petrakova has been sensational all season long. She has averaged 18.2 points per game having shot the ball well from both sides of the three-point line. She has also weighed in with 7.5 rebounds per game. Meanwhile Lithuanian Ausra Bimbaite has also excelled with her do-it-all game. She has led the team in assists and steals per game, and like Petrakova has shot the ball efficiently from all over the floor.
KEY MATCH UP: There is a lot resting on the shoulders of Sanders because she does so much for her team but perhaps she will find it tough getting high levels of production and having the same kind of impact in the paint against the experienced Michelle Snow.