|Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various web-sites and publications across Europe. If you would like to contact Paul you can e-mail him here firstname.lastname@example.org.|
Even with most matters already decided, EuroLeague Women still threw up plenty to marvel at during the final week of another fantastic Qualifying Round.
Things went right down to the wire in Group A where USO Mondeville were alive and kicking heading into the final game, as were Pecs 2010 who had risen back from a near fatal position at the midway point of the Qualifying Round.
Both teams were fighting it out for the last spot and, in the end, it was Pecs 2010 who prevailed with a great home success against Cras Basket Taranto.
Another 3,000 fans roared on the home favourites and you really have to hand it to Coach Djokic and his team for reviving their fortunes after a quite horrific start.
As for USO Mondeville, they had almost the mirror opposite run of Pecs. They started like an express train but then faded badly. By the time they beat TTT Riga last week, their fate had already been sealed although I suppose they won't be too downhearted when they reflect back on a campaign which they certainly did their best to compete as a wildcard entrant.
|All is well that ends well - Pécs 2010 turned their fortunes around and made it to the Eighth-Finals in style|
There was a great battle inside the Infinity Arena in Kosice as the Good Angels were beaten in a tight one by Wisla Can Pack despite Candice Dupree claiming a double-double. While both teams finished second and third respectively in the Group, ties against Bourges and Nadezhda hardly seem like much reward.
Of course that only further highlights we are now into the business end of the season and just how tight some of these forthcoming match-ups could be.
Group B was predictably where all eyes were focused last week for the big one between Fenerbahce and UMMC Ekaterinburg although that in itself took the shine off a nice win for Gospic Croatia at home to MKB EuroLeasing who deserve credit for going out on a high with only their second win of the campaign.
In terms of the Istanbul clash between the two heavyweights, I think it is a fair assessment that most people anticipated a road win for Ekat after all of the pre-game disruption for Coach Ratgeber.
So, maximum credit to Fener for making it 10 and 0! It's true that Ekat didn't play too well, even if Candace Parker again showed her prowess in the paint and while I don't think alarm bells will be ringing after this second defeat, it will be interesting to see how the Ekat team reacts between now and the Final Four when the heat will be on more intense than ever before for Coach Vetra.
Elsewhere, Lotos Gdynia will probably be thankful to have been put out of their misery as the rebuilding programme for future campaigns begins in the wake of a rotten season.
They went out bottom of the standings after allowing an opportunity to take the scalp of Rivas Ecopolis slip through their fingers.
However, there are surely brighter times ahead for fans of the Polish club and I am not just talking about watching the forthcoming All Star game! You have to think having George Dikeioulakos holding the reins will enable them to get back on track.
Group C has been the most fascinating from start to finish and you could also argue there have been few teams as intriguing to watch as Galatasaray Medical Park.
Quite how they qualified I am not exactly sure as they stumbled their way into the knockout stages to set up a mouth-watering clash with their arch rivals in what could be an extraordinary game.
Of course even if they have underperformed, they did still manage to emerge from a tough group and that was thanks mainly to Sylvia Fowles and her 26-point haul against a USK Prague team who flatter to deceive a little.
Galatasaray Coach Ceyhun Yıldızoğlu claimed after the game he is optimistic for the play-offs and while I wouldn't be too optimistic myself, it's the best possible scenario to meet their Istanbul counterparts since the cliché of form going out of the window during big derby games sometimes rings true.
Halcon Avenida have definitely been the class act in this pool of teams and they underlined this with a great home success against Sparta&K M.R Vidnoje.
|Ivana Matovic came up with a huge perfomance as Fenerbahce beat Ekaterinburg in the highly anticipated Istanbul battle|
Once again it was Alba Torrens who was the star of the show. However rather interestingly it was perhaps a very rare off night by Epifaniya Prints which made something of a difference. Prints has been terrific for most of the season but she was 2 of 10 and that isn't up to her usual high standard for the visitors.
Last but not least in the Group come VICI Aistes, one of the most remarkable performers this season and it seems almost a tad unfair that after claiming yet another home success, this time against Tarbes GB, they still don't sneak into the knockout phase with four wins.
Even though they haven't progressed, there can't be many more proud fans in EuroLeague Women than those who have turned up in Kaunas to watch this exciting young team.
Katie Douglas really did light it up for Ros Casares in Group D, where Frisco Sika Brno formally crashed out of the tournament on the wrong end of a couple of a rout, as did Gorzow at Nadezhda. It's been a strange campaign in many ways for Ros Casares but I guess the message is simply to write them off at your peril when you consider how they still emerged top of the standings.
The one team who has been undercooked all season long by Paulball is most definitely Bourges Basket. Their destruction of Famila Beretta Schio to wrap up a really impressive qualifying campaign has me thinking that a Final Four place is not beyond them this year.
Their imperious home record built around their impeccable defence and sizeable noisy home crowds makes it as difficult a place to get a win as anywhere in the competition.
Equally with Cathy Joens really now beginning to shine from the perimeter, they have that true outside threat to add to their perennially powerful approach inside.
Paulball Jaw Dropper - I had genuinely not expected Pecs 2010 to qualify even if I do have a soft spot for them and had tipped them to do so. After all, they did lose four of their first five games. So, with that in mind, it was jaw dropping when they beat Group A leaders Cras Basket Taranto to ensure they completed an astonishing turnaround with four wins during the last five games of the Qualifying Round as they came back from the brink and showed their guts to reach the knockout phase - a remarkable effort.
Paulball Quote Of The Week - The beautifully simplistic assessment of UMMC Ekaterinburg coach Gundars Vetra who made no excuses after the defeat in Istanbul with the comment, "We did not play well tonight, we have a lot of work to do now."
Paulball Performers Of The Week - While both VICI Aistes and Pecs 2010 can stake really good claims for this award, you can't look past Fenerbahce. Yes, they have huge resources and some stand-out player but taking into account the disruption caused by losing arguably two of their best players in Diana Taurasi and then Penny Taylor, they not only managed the situation in fine style but they did the double over a class team and tournament favourites UMMC Ekaterinburg to remain undefeated during the Qualifying Round. When you put it those terms, it's impossible to look past them as performers of the week.
Paulball Fabulous Five - Katie Douglas, Maurita Reid, Sylvia Fowles, Angel McCoughtry, Kelsey Griffin.
Paulball Cameo Of The Week - Ivana Matovic played another super game yet again for Fener and you could argue that her display was not actually a cameo at all as it was so influential. Still, we will let Angel McCoughtry grab the headlines with Matovic taking the Cameo of The Week with a highly efficient 24 points off 7 of 10 floor shooting against a really strong Ekat frontcourt opponent.
Paulball Stat of The Week - Maurita Reid signed off her involvement in the tournament against MKB Euroleasing with a game winning performance and a joint EuroLeague Women 2011 high of 12 assists.
Paulball Rising Star Performer Of The Week - Finishing with a flourish in this category, the accolade is shared this week by two players playing in the same game and who, rather fittingly, have featured prominently during the Qualifying Round. Both Tijana Krivacevic and Marija Vrsaljko broke the 20 barrier for MKB Euroleasing and Gospic Croatia respectively with the former recording a EuroLeague Women career high!
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