Another Final Four For Spartak Is Far From Easy

26 February 2010

Spartak Moscow kept their unbeaten record to advance to the Final Four in a 87-85 overtime thriller against Fenerbahce.

Fenerbahce rode a great team performance with five players in double figures to challenge the Russian titans, but came up just short.

Nevriye Yilmaz scored the first points of the night with a mid-distance jumper, followed by two points from Esmeral Tuncluer to open a quick 4-0 lead for the hosts.

Spartak would not allow a bigger lead though, and after Diana Taurasi completed a three point play after three minutes Spartak were up for the first time at 7-6.

Both team exchanged blows with Spartak seeming to get the easier shots thanks to the ability of Sue Bird and Taurasi to open the court with quick penetrations and easy dishes to Sylvia Fowles or Janel McCarville.

Fenerbahce looked matched up quite well against Taurasi and Anete Jekabsone on the wing with Powell and Penny Taylor providing solid defence, but they paid a high price with Taylor and Tammy Sutton-Brown picking up two fouls early.

Down 19-14 with one minute to go in the first Esmeral Tuncluer scored four straight points to close the gap.

Fenerbahce still found themselves down by four because superstar Diana Taurasi scored on a three pointer in traffic with the quarter expiring.

With 6:12 to play until half-time Tammy Sutton Brown sank to free throws after she was fouled penetrating the Spartak zone defence and put her team up again 26-25.

After almost five minutes Sue Bird ended the Spartak drought and scored a three-pointer, Spartak's first field goal of the quarter.

But the Turkish giants were already rolling and Penny Taylor and Nicole Powell brought her side up 36-28.

At the end of a defensive minded and free throw stacked quarter Istanbul had only allowed a mere two field goals and 10 points in total and were leading the defending champions 38-34.

Everything was overshadowed, however by Sonja Petrovic twisting her knee in the back court and leaving the game unable to walk.

Fenerbahce looked everything but nervous and came out firing to even extend their half-time lead to 45-36 after a Sutton-Brown fast-break lay-up whereas Spartak were living on individual plays by Taurasi.

The lead ballooned to double digits at 51-39 when Sutton-Brown made a lay-up after several attempts and offensive rebounds on a fast break.

Penny Taylor picked up her fourth foul with 5:35 to play in the third after an offensive rebound by Irina Osipova and Taurasi immediately took advantage of the absence of her primary opponent to score on a lay-up to make it 53-44.

The frenetic Turkish crowd that featured players of archrivals Galatasaray was seemingly not happy with Sutton-Brown's fourth foul and lots of pressure on the reserves to not give away a surprising double-digit lead.

But with Vardarli and Yilmaz leading the way the lead was growing constantly and at 67-52 with only one quarter to play the huge upset seemed possible.

Spartak switched to zone defence and got points of Taurasi and Fowles to cut the lead to 10 after a Taurasi three ball but Fenerbahce were fighting for every inch on the court.

But the tight defence showed some effect and the hosts could not get their outside shots to fall and so the lead was shrinking slowly but surely and Penny Taylor had fouled out in the meantime.

When Fenerbahce head coach Haydar Kemal Ates called a time out with 4:19 to play the Russian side had cut the lead to a mere four points at 69-65.

With less than 2 min to go Diana Taurasi did what she does best, draining a three pointer right on her opponent to bring her team close and followed with another triple to bring Spartak up 71-73.

Fenerbahce missed a pair of lay-ups and looked like they were finished but Taurasi then was called for an offensive foul when she was closely guarded at half-court.

That put Nicole Powell in the position to make an unbelievable long two-point shot against two opponents to tie the game and leave Spartak with 12 seconds to launch a potential game winning shot.

But Diana Taurasi's long baseline jumper was off-target and so was a put-back attempt by Janel Mc Carville.

Jekabsone opened the overtime with a three ball, only to be followed by two foul shots of Nicole Powell.

Esmeral Tuncluer showed great heart when she tied the game once more on a three ball after sloppy defense of the now hot shooting Diana Taurasi.

Sutton-Brown and Powell had brought Fenerbahce up by three but Taurasi again took over.

She made a quick lay-up and a tough jumper and when Nicole Powell was off target with seven seconds to go they had to foul Jekabsone with only two seconds to go.

The Latvian international made one to make it 85-87 and Powell missed the three pointer at the buzzer.

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