Taylor Made: We'll Always Have Brno

17.04.2008

I am still pinching myself after watching another excellent EuroLeague Women Final Four. Last year in Vidnoje it was great.

This year in Brno, it was even better.

What was it that we were saying before the event, something like each team had a 25% chance of winning? That turned out to be right when looking at how close the semi-finals were.

Lauren Jackson (Spartak Moscow Region)
Lauren Jackson one again proved she is the class of EuroLeague Women.
Here is the lesson, though. No one should ever bet against a Spartak team that has Lauren Jackson and Tina Thompson.

I have drawn some other conclusions from the several days in the Czech Republic and here they are.

1 - It feels like summer there compared to England, where I live.

2 - The food is better than in England.

3 - Who needs to go to Prague when you can visit Brno? The city is lovely, especially the old town and the numerous cafes that serve coffee by day, beer by night. Don't get me wrong, Prague is magical as well. It's just nice to know there's more than one reason to go to the Czech Republic.

4 - The 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women will be in the Czech Republic. These people know how to organize events, so everything should run smoothly.

5 - Jackson is the best player in the world!!!!!!!!!!!! Please note that I finished that off with several exclamation points. It was almost unfair watching her make three-pointer after three-pointer. She shot a EuroLeague best 54% before the Final Four. Jackson hit 74% (five of seven) in Brno. If the Sonics had her, well, they wouldn't be leaving Seattle.

4 - Bourges and France coach Pierre Vincent must know that Caroline Aubert can help the France women's national team with her clutch shooting. The Ekaterinburg star buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Bourges in the third place game.

5 - Spartak coach Natalia Hejkova, how do you do it? No, I'm not talking about winning back-to-back EuroLeague titles for the second time (she also did it with Ruzomberok in 1999 and 2000). I'm talking about maintaining your focus with Shabtai on the bench. I was sitting in the booth doing some commentary for the internet broadcast during the final and what did I see but Spartak supremo Shabtai, who likes to sit on the bench with the team, stand up and walk to the scorer's table only to be told by a referee to sit back down. So Shabtai, while Hejkova is trying to coach her team, tugs on her blazer and tells her to go and speak to the guy on the tannoy. Hejkova eventually does this. It was later revealed that the man on the microphone was saying `Spartak Moscow' rather than `Spartak Moscow Region' and yes, he did need to be corrected.

6 - Palming the ball, which is not allowed in basketball, was an infraction that was called often at the Final Four. I had not seen the call made since moving to Europe in 1996, and in Brno, I must have seen the call made a dozen times. That said, the referees did a fine job. From my vantage point, particularly, in the first semi-final between Bourges and Gambrinus, two crucial fouls were called near the end and one for each team. Sonja Kireta of Bourges was fouled and made both free throws and Hana Machova of Gambrinus was fouled and made both of hers as the game went to overtime. Machova dribbled the ball the length of the floor in six seconds and made sure to make contact with Kireta as she attempted a lay-up. That decision did not cause Bourges, who had led by 17 points in the second quarter, to lose the semi-final.

7 - Ekaterinburg was the best team this season that I didn't get to know. I went to the EuroLeague All Star Game and the coach, Laurent Buffard, and All Stars Penny Taylor (Rest of the World) and Agnieszka Bibrzycka (Europe) didn't show up. I thought they would all be in a celebratory mood after beating CSKA 2-0 in the quarter-finals, but they skipped the event which was sad, considering it was held just several months after the conclusion of the Year of Women's Basketball. At least in Brno, I checked into the Hotel International where I'd heard Ekaterinburg would be staying. WRONG! Ekaterinburg decided to leave the hotel and check into another one. There was no gag order, though. I got a few words with Aubert and Asjha Jones after the third place game.

8 - Tina Thompson is a great representative of Spartak and Team USA. Not only is she good, but she's as nice as they come, always available for an interview and this is while her young son Dillon is usually in close pursuit yelling, "Mommy, Mommy."

9 - Belinda Snell! What a player! She hit seven of 11 three-pointers in the semi-final against Gambrinus and Bourges lost? I can't wait to see Australia take on the USA at the Olympics. With Jackson, Ekaterinburg duo Kristi Harrower and Penny Taylor and Snell, that is one heck of a team. At least Snell made the all tournament team.


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