Gambrinus Sika Brno edged Bourges Basket 70-69 to reach the EuroLeague Women Final Four and cap one of the most closely fought play-off ties in recent memory.
|Elodie Godin missed a potential game-winning three-pointer|
Gambrinus' players know they have dodged a bullet with French internationals Cathy Melain and Elodie Godin both missing potential game-winning three-pointers at the end for Bourges.
French giants Bourges, winners of the EuroLeague Women in 1997, '98 and 2001, failed to make it back to the Final Four for the first time since 2003.
For Czech juggernauts Gambrinus, the hard work and steely determination of coach Jan Bobrovsky and his talented players continues to pay dividends.
Gambrinus have never won the competition but did finish runners-up to BC Volgaburmash last year. Much of the team experienced basketball glory last season, however, as members of the gold-medal winning Czech Republic side at the EuroBasket Women in Turkey.
Despite being away for two games, Gambrinus were favourites, especially after winning Game 1 62-59.
Bourges bounced back with a solid performance in Brno, which they clinched 75-65.
Bobrovsky spoke confidently about his team in the build-up to the decider but when Laia Palau made a three-pointer and then added a pair of free throws, Bourges led 66-61 with 3:25 to go.
The French city which has a love affair with basketball had reason to believe they would be popping champagne corks.
More than a minute went by before Hana Machova, one of Brno's Czech Republic national team stars, earned a trip to the charity stripe and made two to trim the deficit to 66-63.
|Petra Kulichová had 13 points for Brno|
The Gambrinus players have been in a lot of close games the past few years and that experience may have just been the crucial factor down the stretch.
After Godin missed a jumper, Petra Kulichova buried a jump shot for Brno and suddenly they led 67-66.
Machova was then called for a foul on Pauline Krawczyk and she made two free throws to put Bourges back in front with 1:15 to go.
Right on cue, Eve Viteckova, one of Gambrinus' and the Czech Republic's most reliable performers, drained a three-pointer for a 70-68 lead with 1:02 to play.
Bourges still had plenty of time.
Ngoyisa missed the first but made the second to leave Gambrinus ahead 70-69.
Gambrinus' American Nykesha Sales mis-fired with 23 seconds to go and Bourges found themselves with a chance to win after Godin pulled down the rebound.
Godin had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Sadly for Bourges fans and to the relief of those rooting for Gambrinus, Melain and then Godin missed three-pointers at the end.
Gambrinus' balance attack was led by Machova and Kulichova, with each scoring 13 points while Viteckova and Milton had 11 apiece.
Palau's 12 points paced Bourges, who must now focus their attention firmly on the French title race.
BC Volgaburmash, Gambrinus, Lietuvos Telekomas and US Valenciennes are in the Final Four.