Bourges Back In Final Four

07 April 2008

Some may have believed that Bourges didn't have much of a chance of returning to the EuroLeague Women Final Four in 2008.

That certainly looked to be the case after the club lost four of its first five games in the Qualifying Round.

As the saying goes, though, "It's not how you start, but how you finish" and that is something coach Pierre Vincent must have preached to his Bourges players because they rebounded to finish 6-4 in Group B and then swept both MKB Euroleasing and Fenerbahce in the first two rounds of the post-season.

Celine Dumerc (Bourges Basket)
Celine Dumerc is the engine that drives Bourges.
That earned the club a trip to Brno where they will face hosts Gambrinus in a semi-final showdown.

No team in Europe is playing with more confidence right now than Bourges.

In a season in which CSKA Moscow and Ros Casares were recognized for long winning streaks, Bourges have been equally terrific.

In 21 regular-season games in the French top flight, Bourges are unbeaten and four points clear of Valenciennes at the top of the standings.

The difference between CSKA, Ros Casares and Bourges is that Pierre Vincent's team is in the Final Four, something they have won on three occasions, the last in 2001.

Last year, Bourges made it to Vidnoje, Russia, and lost to Ros Casares in the semi-finals.

Evanthia Maltsi left for Ros Casares and Vicky Hall departed as well, just as Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Laia Palau had done the previous year for Dynamo Moscow and Ros Casares.

Bourges managed to keep point guard Celine Dumerc in the fold, and added an underrated world champion in Australian Belinda Snell and a Serbian, FIBA Europe's Young Player of the Year Sonja Petrovic.

The outcome is that Bourges have been even better this season.

Vincent's team has great rebounders in Emmeline Ndongue and Sonja Kireta, and one of the best point guards in the competition in defensive stalwart Dumerc.

Bourges have also benefitted from improving play of emerging French international Endene Miyem, a 19-year-old power forward who scored 16 points in the opening quarter-final game win over Fenerbahce.

And there should be no underestimating the value of veteran guard Cathy Melain, either. The 33-year-old forward averaged more than 24 minutes per contest in the EuroLeague Women and did a little bit of everything to help Bourges make it back.

Was there a turning point for Bourges in the EuroLeague Women? You bet there was.

It came in Qualifying Round play, when they upset previously undefeated UMMC Ekaterinburg, one of the best teams in Europe that is also in the Final Four.

What had Vincent said before that game?

"We stayed with Ekaterinburg in our previous game, hence it proves that we can play against them and look at them eye-to-eye," he said. "We must make sure that we show that again."

That triumph propelled Bourges to a second-place finish in Group B and allowed them to secure a vital home court advantage in the Eighth-Final Play-offs.

Don't think for a minute that Bourges will not look Gambrinus eye-to-eye, and don't be surprised if the French team come away victors.

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