‘Sixth Man’ Makes The Difference For Perfumerias Avenida

17 March 2009

One thing that rings true when it comes to women's basketball in Europe is that the fans of Halcon Perfumerias Avenida are second to none.

The Salamanca club enjoys an incredible home-court advantage and that, make no mistake, is the most significant reason for this proud Spanish outfit having marched all the way to the EuroLeague Women Final Four.

It's why the players were able to dig deep and defeat CSKA Moscow in double overtime in Game 3 of their

Ilona Korstin (CSKA Moscow)
Ilona Korstin of CSKA Moscow has said playing in Salamanca feels like a game of six on five.
Eighth-Finals play-off tie, and it's also why no one is writing off this team's title chances in Europe.

CSKA's Ilona Korstin spoke with a sense of amazement after Game 1 of their tie with Avenida in Salamanca, which was won 80-69 by the Spanish team.

"The atmosphere in the gym was absolutely fantastic and you feel as if you are playing against six players," the Russia international said.

So important is that "sixth man" that Avenida have not lost at home in Europe all season. Eight times teams have visited, and eight times those teams have lost.

Avenida are hosting the Final Four, which will be staged from April 3-5, and will take on another surprise package MKB Euroleasing Sopron in one Semi-Final.

Victory in that game would put Salamanca into a title showdown with either two-time defending champions Spartak Moscow Region or UMMC Ekaterinburg.

The home support, Avenida's Isa Sanchez says, gives her team a chance.

"With respect to the fans, there is never any doubt," she said. "We have one of the best fan followings not only in Spain but in Europe. That motivates you to do well."

The game that everyone is still talking about was an epic encounter, the Game 3 Eighth-Finals decider with CSKA.

Those lucky enough to be among the 3,500 fans in the Pabellon Wurzburg saw Anke De Mondt bury a long three-pointer to tie the game in the final minute of regulation and force overtime.

The supporters then nearly took the roof off the building when Donnette Snow drilled a three with just four seconds left in the extra period to send the contest to a second overtime.

With the game knotted at 68-68 in the second OT, Avenida made five straight free throws - four by Sanchez - and stayed on top for the remainder of the clash.

Avenida ended up winning 83-74, and the on-court celebration that followed made the ground shake all the way to the Casa de las Conchas in the historic quarter of Salamanca.

After Jose Hernandez's side followed that success with a 2-0 sweep of MiZo Pecs 2010 in the Quarter-Finals, excitement turned to ecstasy when FIBA Europe awarded the Final Four to Salamanca.

"For us to host the Final Four in Salamanca is something historic, not only for making it this far in the competition but to be able to celebrate it in a city that has given so much to women´s basketball," Sanchez said.

"This will be a party in general for Spanish sports."

Sopron will pull out all stops to win their Semi-Final, and the Russian side that makes it to the Final will go all out for glory.

But Sanchez said: "I think the team has responded well to pressure.

"We have already had key games in the EuroLeague this season and we have responded in a fantastic way.

"I think the team is used to this pressure and in fact, it motivates us more.

"The fact that it´s at home is all the more satisfying because at home we haven´t lost a game and that says a lot about this city, of the measured pressure the fans place."

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