Paulball: Debut Day

17 January 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

While the usual shocks and nail biting finales which characterise EuroLeague Women were generally in short supply during the penultimate week of Qualifying Round action, has there ever been a day when so many debuts have been made after the start of a season?

One of the few games which did throw up a thriller took place in Group A at Pecs with nerve jangling win for the home team against Good Angels Kosice keeping their hopes of a last sixteen place alive heading into the final week. It was the perfect script for fan favourite Dalma Ivanyi and she didn't disappoint with an all-action 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

Nicole Powell (Fenerbahce)
Nicole Powell is back in Europe and gives Wisla hope for another deep run in the EuroLeague Women post season

When it comes to a script, you could say TTT Riga almost ripped theirs up to embarrass and shock visiting Wisla Can Pack but the Polish side eventually emerged unscathed and with a win as they showcased debutantes Nicole Powell and Yelena Leuchanka.

The arrival of the pair has arguably catapulted Jose Hernandez and his team into the realm of genuine Final Four contenders again and certainly Powell showcased her skills to great effect with a stand out 18 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.

Most importantly, the strength and depth of the Krakow club was highlighted by the return to action of Latvia National Team star Gunta Basko and her importance to the team heading into the knockout phase shouldn't be under-estimated.

Fighting it out for the last spot with Pecs 2010 are wildcard entrants USO Mondeville who have had an up and down season but will be delighted they could yet make extend their European season. They crashed at Cras Basket Taranto who were pleased with new acquisition Sophia Young as she wasted no time in settling in with a team high 18 points

Group B witnessed the first action of the ‘post-Angel' era for MKB EuroLeasing although it wasn't exactly the big talking point in Sopron and that is no surprise with as a certain Candace Parker returned to EuroLeague Women to steal the show in her first game back during a comfortable win.

Sopron supporters knew it would be tough and with Marissa Coleman one of the few debutantes struggling to make an impact, I guess few fans realistically expect her to fill the huge void left by Angel McCoughtry. The prolific star debuted for Fenerbahce in Gdynia with the visitors having to work hard to win. A dazzling display by the irrepressible Ivana Matovic ensured they preserved their unbeaten status although that will be tested this week when they host an Ekat team boosted by Parker and out for revenge.

Things have been crazy for Fener of late with the departure of Diana Taurasi followed by the arrival of Angel McCoughtry and Anete Jekabsone and now rumours growing in relation to Penny Taylor being unsettled. However, I guess most EuroLeague Women play-callers would love to have the problems of Coach Ratgeber and sympathy for his current headaches is probably in short supply because of the resources Fener have!

23. Anete Jekabsone (Sparta&K M. R. Vidnoje)
Anete Jekabsone is hoping to make her debut for Fenerbhce this week

It's been a great week or two for Rivas Ecopolis and their season is really evolving positively after an inconvincing start. Central to that of course has been the form of DeWanna Bonner but also Amaya Valdemoro finding form and the continued impressive rookie season of Courtney Paris who has impressed me since day one. They followed up their Copa De La Reina success with a comfortable win over Gospic Croatia and with their new found momentum. they could be a tricky opponent in the play-offs.

There was a landmark moment in Group C when defending champions Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje ende their barren run outside of Russia with their first road win of the campaign at Tarbes. This was very impressive indeed taking into account the loss of both Jackson and Jekabsone but I guess having the class of Sue Bird onboard whose debut in the competition this season almost went unnoticed last week will always be a big help.

Tarbes missed their big opportunity to put one foot in the next round with Galatasaray Medical Park slumping at home to Halcon Avenida although one positive was that Brooke Smith was solid on her debut.

USK Prague are quietly going about their business and they could be a dangerous team to face. I am really interested to see if they can win on the road at Galatasaray in their final group game this week as the Turkish team continue to under perform outside of Sylvia Fowles who incidentally threw down a big dunk in the domestic All Star game at the weekend.

Group D was a done deal in terms of who was going to qualify but the battle for positioning is as intense as anywhere. It's been a difficult week or so for Ros Casares after their Copa failure and their big win in Gorzow will have lifted a cloud or two as they top the group. Bourges and Schio will fight it out for the runners-up spot and that looks like a great game this week, certainly one of the picks of the last game of the first part of this continually entertaining and magnificent tournament.

Paulball Jaw Dropper - For once it was not the action on the court which had my jaw dropping but all of the player movements, situations and continued speculation off it. Unfortunately the trend could continue this week and sadly the tournament has lost some of its biggest names in the form of Jackson, Taurasi and now potentially possible MVP in the form of Penny Taylor.

Paulball Quote Of The Week - Merely winning isn't enough for Halcon Avenida play-caller Lucas Mondelo who said after a win at Galatasaray, "We are trying to play beautiful basketball."

Paulball Performers Of The Week - While I have to pay maximum credit to Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje for shrugging off the loss of a couple of megastars and landing their first road win of the season, it's hard to look past the achievement of Pecs 2010 against Good Angels Kosice. It was never going to be an easy game and they dealt with the pressure to emerge victorious and to fight another day much to the delight of almost 3,000 relieved and eventually jubilant home fans.

Paulball Fabulous Five - Tina Charles, Sandra Mandir, DeWanna Bonner, Nicole Powell, Cheryl Ford.

Paulball Cameo Of The Week - How about this for sharing the award this week? The master and pupil of shooters namely Eve Viteckova and Katerina Elhotova both missed out on the headlines behind MVP Lindsay Whalen for USK Prague against VICI Aistes. However, they both had almost identical cameos, each shooting 4 of 6 inside and 3 of 5 from the perimeter while they both dished 4 assists!

Paulball Stat of The Week - Can you believe Cheryl Ford on the glass this year? She has been incredible and having already had two 20 rebound performances, she only went and grabbed that extra rebound at Bourges to produce the best rebounding display of the season so far to raise the standard to a stupendous 21! Simply fantastic!

Paulball Rising Star Performer Of The Week -There is only one game left of the Qualifying Round and so before it's too late, I should recognise that while Alba Torrens has been so hot this season she could have grabbed this award just about every week, we have to remember and respect the fact she is still only 21 years old. With that in mind, I tip my hat in admiration to the number one rising star of EuroLeague Women (if indeed she is even a rising star at all anymore) and hail the talent and application of the Spanish sensation who produced 24 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds at Galatasaray Medical Park. What a season she is having

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