Phard Napoli became the first winner of a FIBA Europe club competition in 2005 on Sunday night in Italy. Napoli defeated Fenerbahce 45-53 to win the FIBA Europe Cup Women in a game characterised by its defensive intensity.
While nerves also contributed to a poor shooting display from both sides, it was Napoli's ability to disrupt Fenerbahce's offense in the final quarter that saw them take a deserved victory.
|Napoli's Nicole Antibe finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds|
"The difference was defense," said a victorious Vicki Bullett after the game. "Defense and we were much more patient on the offensive end, trying to move the ball and make their defense work and we had a lot of good shots at the end. Defense won the game, that's always the key."
The key stretch for Napoli came in the opening 5 minutes of the final quarter. The Italian side held Fenerbahce to just 1 field goal and forced them into 3 turnovers. On the offensive end, Napoli took advantage of thier opponent's errors, making 5/6 field goals and opening up a 48-37 gap with 5 minutes to go.
While Napoli made their shots when it mattered, they also struggled with their shooting for the majority of the contest.
"We can play better than we did today, but playing back-to-back games is not easy," said Bullett.
Indeed it was Fenerbahce who looked to be favourites in the opening three quarters, particularly after a second period in which Napoli scored only 4 points. The Turkish side kept their noses in front for 29 minutes, and it was only inside the last minute of the third period that Napoli took the lead, 34-37 going into the fourth.
Napoli's run at the start of the final period gave them the momentum they needed. Although Fenerbahce boasted a respectable contingent of fans who had made the trip from Istanbul, they were no match for the 3,800 Napoli supporters.
2 consecutive baskets in the first minute of the fourth quarter sent the crowd in to a frenzy as they scented victory.
Once Napoli's lead reached double figures, Fenerbahce's hopes began to fade and there was no coming back in the final five minutes.
Napoli were led by Sara Giauro and Immacolata Gentile who scored 11 points each. But it was Giauro's contribution which earned her MVP honours, as she scored 7 points in Napoli's 9-3 burst in the fourth quarter.
Fenerbahce shot just 11/42 from the field and Tiffani Johnson was the only player to make it into double figures in scoring with 11 points.