Paulball: The ‘Predictably Unpredictable’ Play-Offs

07 February 2011

Paul NilsenPaul 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

The EuroLeague Women Play-Offs arrived last week to deliver even more spectacular treats than usual and we haven't even completed the eighth-finals just yet.

I never get tired of saying it and thankfully never will - EuroLeague Women never fails to produce the full package for fans. Last week encapsulated everything you just have to love about the competition, plus a little bit more too. The tournament really did excel itself with the levels of pulsating entertainment and genuinely nerve-shredding excitement.

Another dimension which continues to grow was also evident once again, namely the element of surprise. EuroLeague Women has become quite deliciously ‘predictably unpredictable' which makes it just so much fun for everyone concerned.

Even during the Qualifying Round we had plenty of shocks and surprises with those expected to get to Final Four either losing or being pushed mighty close. That didn't change as the play-offs tipped off.

5. Marta Fernandez (Ros Casares)
MKB Euroleasing's Friday win means they live to fight another day and now the pressure is on Marta Fernandez's Ros Casares

For example, we had Ros Casares being taken to a third game in the series by MKB Euroleasing and UMMC Ekaterinburg dodging two potentially fatal bullets against Rivas Ecopolis.

Of those teams who have already booked their place in the last eight, you have to say that Fenerbahce, Halcon Avenida and UMMC Ekaterinburg were probably favourites to get the job done early.

The latter were pushed really hard by Rivas as already mentioned but I think the real credit has to go to Wisla Can-Pack, the fourth team to book their place by picking up a 2-0 series win. Nadezhda were my dark horses to make Final Four and a really dangerous team but all credit to Jose Hernandez and the Krakow club. They did a really great job.

Of those teams who failed in their quest to reach the last eight of the competition, major credit to Pecs 2010 who are definitely the warriors of this 2011 tournament. They just kept fighting but didn't have the depth of quality to quite combat Halcon Avenida.

Rivas showed they have huge potential but must now take their opportunity to focus on Liga Femenina which is a must as they have slipped to a number of losses of late and need to get back to challenging Ros and Salamanca.

Nadezhda promised a lot but the impact of Becky Hammon not firing on all cylinders at a crucial time probably cost them. At least there was success in some respects off the court for the Russian club with over 6,000 viewers tuning in for Nadezhda TV, a project initiated by fans in conjunction with the club to raise the profile of their team.

As for Galatasaray Medical Park, I have mentioned them throughout this competition and waited for them to rise from their slumber. Unfortunately they continued to sleepwalk through right until the last moment when they went out against arch rivals Fenerbahce with barely a whimper. Consequently they must be a front-runner for the unwanted tag of under-achievers of the season.

Last but not least of course we have another eight teams all 40 minutes away from grabbing those last four places in the quarter finals when dreams of Final Four become much more vivid.

6. Paulina Pawlak (Wisla Can-Pack)
Wisla Can-Pack's Paulina Pawlak is Paul's pick for 'Cameo Of The Week', for her brilliant perfomance in Orenburg

Aside from MKB Euroleasing who would be seen as most people as having to complete one of the biggest shocks in play-off history in Valencia, I think it is true to say all of the other three games are difficult to call for one reason or another.

So, you know what that means? We get another load of entertainment and thrilling EuroLeague Women action to gorge ourselves on again this week. Yes, absolutely fantastic. - my thoughts exactly!

Paulball Jaw Dropper - Having lost by almost 30 points during the first game in Valencia and taking into account the recent blow of losing kingpin Angel McCoughtry to Fenerbahce, the 72-70 success of MKB Euroleasing against Ros Casares to take this series to the wire was a real jaw dropper!

Paulball Quote Of The Week - Pecs 2010 legend Dalma Ivanyi summarises what it means when another season of EuroLeague Women comes to an end for her and her team. "I am so sad. It was our last game. We did our best but it was not enough. The wind blew against us."

Paulball Performers Of The Week - There are plenty of options to choose from but it's hard to look past Wisla Can-Pack who finished off a tough and dangerous Nadezhda team without the need for a third game. Not many teams win in Orenburg and their 72-63 success was a fabulous result and a real eye opener for their rivals. The Polish club, led by Erin Phillips could fancy their chances of securing back to back Final Four appearances with this type of victory although they face a tough proposition in the last eight.

Paulball Fabulous Five - Cappie Pondexter, Sancho Lyttle, Anastasiya Verameyneka, Rebekkah Brunson, Courtney Paris,

Paulball Cameo Of The Week - Paulina Pawlak was an efficient 4 of 5 from the field including three triples on her way to 11 points for Wisla Can-Pack in the win at Nadezhda. She also dished up 4 assists and didn't turn the ball over once.

Paulball Stat of The Week - While she didn't have her best night offensively or percentage-wise, there is no keeping Celine Dumerc down. Her quality shone through for UMMC Ekaterinburg with six steals - absolute gold dust in such a tight overtime game.

Paulball Rising Star Performer Of The Week - Tijana Krivacevic continued to enhance her burgeoning reputation once again, this time leading her team to that famous win against Ros Casares with 21 points and 5 rebounds.


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