Spartak Hold Off Brno To Win Second Straight Title


Spartak Moscow Region survived a furious fight-back from hosts Gambrinus Brno on Sunday to capture the EuroLeague Women title for the second time in a row.

Lauren Jackson scored 18 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to lead Spartak to a 75-60 triumph. The Australia superstar, who had 35 in Spartak's semi-final success against Ekaterinburg, was named Final Four

Lauren Jackson (Spartak Moscow Region)
Lauren Jackson again led the way for Spartak with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

"We really wanted to win this so badly because I love the girls on the team," Jackson said.

Spartak's Tina Thompson, who had 12 points and eight rebounds and was named to the all-tournament team with Jackson, said: "We're so excited, we've worked so hard all year for this.

Spartak coach Natalia Hejkova also added to her already famous reputation as one of the best coaches of all time in the women's game by leading a team to back-to-back EuroLeague titles for the second time in her career.

She also accomplished the feat in 1999 and 2000 as the boss of SCP Ruzomberok, and on that team was a young Slovakian named Zuzana Zirkova - the leading player of Gambrinus this season.

Zirkova, who had 28 points in Friday's overtime win against Bourges, finished with a team-high 16.

Spartak looked as if they were going to blow out Gambrinus when they stretched a 43-27 half-time advantage to 58-33 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Gambrinus, electing to go to full-court pressure, closed the quarter on a 9-2 run, though, to trim the gap to 60-42.

Jan Bobrovsky's Brno then got the crowd excited by reducing the deficit even further.

When Marina Karpunina fouled Zirkova while she was attempting a three-pointer, the point guard went to the line and sank all three free throws to cut the lead to 62-53.

Gambrinus then twice got to within seven points at 65-58 and 67-60 after getting a three-ball from Zirkova and a basket down low from Timea Beres.

They got no closer, though, and failed to score for the final two and a half minutes.

Bobrovsky, who had called Spartak the best team in Europe ahead of the game, had mixed feelings after the defeat.

"The atmosphere was fantastic," he said. "I've never experienced anything like this in my country.

 "I'm not disappointed with the result. I'm only disappointed with the way we played for a big part of the game.

"We have definitely played better games in the past. The amazing press was great but we couldn't play that for 20 minutes."

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, who like Thompson will represent the United States at the Olympics this summer when they face Jackson and Australia, had 14 points apiece.

Spartak ended up out-rebounding Gambrinus 42-34.

Jackson continued her outstanding shooting from long range.

The best shooter from behind the arc in Europe this season at better than 54%, Jackson nailed two of three against Gambrinus.

She was three of four on her three-ball attempts in Friday's 78-68 win over Ekaterinburg.

"It's been a very long year and we have more basketball to come," Thompson said.

Indeed they do.

After the celebrations in Brno, Spartak will turn their attention to retaining the Russian Superleague title.

"To get here and win it all is very fulfilling," said Thompson.

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