The dream of winning a first Euroleague Women title came to an abrupt end for MiZo Pecs today in their home gym. The Hungarian champions were soundly beaten by French side Valenciennes, who qualify for their 4th consecutive final and have the chance to overcome the disappointment of last year’s 80:82 loss to Ekaterinburg.
Pecs‘ worst fears were realised before tip-off when leading scorer Andrea Károlyi’s injury was deemed by doctors too serious for her to play. The lack of scoring really hurt the Hungarian team and they struggled throughout the game with their shooting. Perhaps the pressure of being at home and the expectation of the 5,000 supporters in the gym (and 3,000 in a tent outside) weighed heavily. Whatever the reasons were, Pecs just could not hit the basket in the first half (8/23 two-pointers and 2/10 three-pointers).
Valenciennes on the other hand were much calmer and able to draw on their all their final four experience. Ann Wauters has made the competition almost her personal property in the past 4 years, winning MVP award on 2 separate occasions.
|Sandra Le Drean|
She began by scoring 7 of her team’s 10 points as Valenciennes controlled the game from the tip-off. They would in fact never trail in the entire 40 minutes and by the end of the first period they led 13:19.
The Pecs fans were desperate for a moment of magic that could give their team the momentum and when point guard Dalma Ivanyi hit a 3-pointer at the start of the second period, it looked as though that would spark the Hungarians. But the French side would not be denied. They outscored Pecs 9:0 and took a commanding 19:34 lead halfway through the quarter.
There was no doubt that the Valenciennes defense had a hand in Pecs lack of scoring, but the home side was also guilty of missing a multitude of open shots, which was typified when Ivanyi and Svitlana Boiko missed wide open lay-ups on 2 consecutive possessions.
"We have trained the past 6 weeks on defense and improving because this is a game to be won on the inside," said USVO coach Laurent Buffard in the post game press conference.
The combination of good defense and bad shooting finally forced Pecs coach Laszlo Ratgeber to call timeout. He was furious with his players, but the damage was already done. They trailed 26:41 at halftime and had given up 30 points in the paint to Valenciennes, led by Wauters with 11.
The second half proved to be no different as the task that Pecs had set themselves was simply too great. The lead continued to increase in favour of the French and finished at 22 points, 53:75.
Wauters finished as the game’s top scorer with 19 points, while Audrey Sauret had 15 and Yerushia Brown chipped in 13.
Kotlikine Ambrus and Allison Tranquilli were the only Pecs players to reach double figures in scoring with 12 and 10 points respectively.