Paulball: The EuroLeague Women Suspense Drama

14 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

From pesky fog to a high profile coach being fired, the EuroLeague Women Eighth-Final Play-Offs were absorbing and conspired to throw up one of the most eagerly anticipated games in years.

Yes, EuroLeague Women 2011 continues to be a beautiful page turner with each specific chapter making the plot as enriched as any campaign that has passed before us. Already one of the most eventful seasons ever ahead of the eighth finals, the pace of dramatic twists and turns show no sign of slowing down.

We had the game between Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje and Beretta-Famila Schio delayed by fog in Moscow and when the skies eventually cleared, it was revealed the hosts would get to defend their four successive titles against a man who led them to one of them!

Fenerbahce head coach László Rátgéber
Paul can hardly wait for the mouth-watering quarter-final clash between defending champions Sparta&K and László Rátgéber's Fenerbahce

Had someone written the script before the season in the name of sports entertainment they couldn't have come up with anything quite like this. The gutsy defending champs will now play against Laszlo Ratgeber and his highly fancied Fenerbahce team in the last eight. A luscious prospect and a match-up that would not look out of place in the last game of any season.

We also had the drama of Ros Casares managing to avoid turbulent waters on the court by cruising into the quarter-finals but then firing Jordi Fernandez. Maybe it is just me but since the turn of the calendar year in particular, I don't think a day has went by without a major talking point being thrown up.

The Valencia club and new play-caller Natalia Hejkova will now have Bourges Basket standing between them and another place at a Final Four. It could so easily have been Good Angels Kosice mind you.

I thought Bourges did so well to overcome a near fatal second quarter drought to kill off the visiting Angels. At one point it really looked like it was slipping through their fingers.

On the topic of which, USK Prague really did miss their big opportunity against Cras Basket Taranto in game two and boy did the Italian champions make them pay with a ruthless rout in the decider. It suggested to me that they are ready to take the second life so generously handed to them by Prague with both hands, which means the clash with UMMC Ekaterinburg might not be the kind of foregone conclusion some might think.

Paulball Jaw Dropper - While you could argue the writing was on the wall after their high profile Copa De La Reina failure, it was perhaps the timing of trigger-happy Ros Casares giving Jordi Fernandez the bullet that had me dropping my jaw. I guess they again underlined their desire to win EuroLeague Women and that means taking tough decisions when they need to, which you certainly have to respect.

Paulball Quote Of The Week - The sense of irony wasn't lost when Jordi Fernandez referred to his team getting the win against MKB EuroLeasing by stating. "I'm very satisfied because my team worked very well during the four quarters." Hours later of course, he was gone.

31. Taj Mc Williams (Sparta&K M. R. Vidnoje)
Paul's hat is off to 'golden oldie' Taj Mc Williams who had 14 points and nine rebounds in game three of the Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje vs Beretta Famila Schio  series

Paulball Performers Of The Week - I have to admit that when Bourges were horrendous during the second quarter and on the wrong end of what could have been a near fatal offensive drought, you sensed it might not be their night. I thought fate might have dealt them a hand meaning their only loss at home would be the only one that truly mattered. Asit was, they came roaring back behind Kaltsidou and showed their ability to lock down opponents to drag themselves back into the game. Certainly a gutsy performance from a hard-nosed basketball team.

Paulball Fabulous Five - Stella Kaltsidou, Janel McCarville, Katie Douglas, Zane Tamane, Taj McWilliams

Paulball Cameo Of The Week - While Cindy Lima had a terrifically efficient 10 points and 9 rebounds for Ros Casares, the blowout factor is hard to ignore and so the accolade goes to Taj McWilliams who had a crucial cameo of 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals for Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje in their tough win against Schio. A true golden oldie!

Paulball Stat of The Week - Maybe the fog in Moscow managed to infiltrate into the Arena to make the basket difficult to see because it's hard to believe the multi-talented quartet of Epifaniya Prints, Liron Cohen, Rafaella Masciadri and Sonja Petrovic were a combined 4 of 28 from the floor! So maybe we should focus on a super seven steals for Cras Basket Taranto by the irrepressible Kathy Wambe.

Paulball Rising Star Performer Of The Week - In a week when it was generally the veterans who shone brightly, how about we hand the award to Nika Baric for being crowned the FIBA Europe Young Player Of The Year? After all, the Slovenian playmaker is surely a EuroLeague Women star of the future. I had the pleasure to speak to her in-depth last year for FIBA Europe and the best part is she probably doesn't even know how good she really is! Congratulations to her.


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