Wisla Can-Pack are right back in the race to finish top of the pile in Group A of EuroLeague Women after they claimed a crucial 66-61 home win against Good Angels Kosice to ensure a three way tie at the top of the standings.
Once again Erin Phillips was instrumental for the Polish team and followed up her Player Of The Week performance with another impressive contribution from downtown making the difference in a tight game.
Without her trio of three-pointers, things could have been different for the home team who as expected, had to work really hard even though Good Angels were without the hugely influential Zuzana Zirkova.
Defensively it was imperative that Wisla Can-Pack kept a lid on the other two big dangers in for Kosice in the form of Charde Houston and Candice Dupree and that is exactly what they did.
There was nothing between the teams during the first thirty minutes of action as a triple by Ivana Jalcova for the visitors put the game firmly into the balance at 47-47.
With just under five minutes left of the game, the home team had edged ahead 56-55 and they managed to hold Kosice to just three further scores which was vital while fittingly Phillips completed an ‘And-1' play with 90 seconds left to effectively see her team to the win.
Ewelina Kobryn and Janell Burse had solid games in the paint for Wisla Can-Pack while Lucia Kupcikova top scored for the visitors with 14 points.
Good Angels Kosice head coach Stefan Svitek:
"It was a very tough game. We came to win but we knew that we came to play against a very good team and in Krakow, where the fans are the sixth player of the home team. We played very hard defence and did our best to break the offence actions of Wisla Can-Pack. In the last minutes we did not find the way to have the open positions and we lost. Congratulations to Wisla and to the super-fans."
Wisla Can-Pack head coach Jose Hernandez:
"We are very happy. We played hard game till the last seconds and this victory opens us the way to get the good position in play offs. We know that we must work more to be better in free shots."
Right from the moment the draw for EuroLeague Women was made during the summer, Group A was considered a wide open contest with no team the obvious favourite to finish top of the pile. After four weeks of action, little has happened to change that assessment.
Last year's Final Four participants Wisla Can-Pack and last eight competitors Good Angels Kosice lock horns for the first time this season in what looks a pivotal game in the context of the Group as each team jostles for positioning, approaching the halfway point of the Qualifying Round.
|Wisla have won both their home games so far and are looking to make it three out of three in Krakow|
If Wisla Can-Pack can grab a win, they would move to 3 and 2 and will suddenly find themselves on the same record as the visitors. Meanwhile a road win for Good Angels Kosice would put them in a commanding position with just one loss from five games.
Both will believe they are worthy of attaining a place in the latter stages of the tournament again this season although things haven't gone too smoothly for Wisla Can-Pack. They are yet to win away from home and are without the influential Gunta Basko. Nevertheless, in front of their fanatical fans they will always be a tough proposition for any team.
Good Angels Kosice are something of a fearless team who have continued their good work from last year despite a blip on the opening day of the new season. They have plenty of dangers within their limited but very effective rotation.
Consequently this looks, on paper at least, to be one of the potentially closest match-ups of the Qualifying Round to date.
The Form - Wisla Can Pack lost perhaps surprisingly at USO Mondeville and less so at Cras Basket Taranto but have racked up home wins against Pecs 2010 and TTT Riga. They are also joint top of the Polish League with a 9-1 record. Good Angels Kosice opened the season with a heavy defeat on opening day at Cras Basket Taranto but have since chalked up three big wins against USO Mondeville, Pecs 2010 and TTT Riga with an average winning margin of 18 points!
Perimeter & Penetration - Wisla Can-Pack will be relying on a combo of Erin Phillips, Andja Jelavic and Paulina Pawlak to pull the strings in the backcourt. Jelavic will look to penetrate and dish while Paulina Pawlak will focus on shooting the ball. The in-form Phillips meanwhile will be equally happy showcasing her all round combo skills.
For Good Angels Kosice, Zuzana Zirkova is their main weapon in the backcourt - as evidenced by her sublime 16 points and 5 assists per game since she moved back to her basketball roots during the summer. Providing support for her scoring and all round ability to get the ball to the forwards in the best possible spots will be Katarina Hrickova, Ivana Jalcova and Miljana Musovic. While respectfully they are never going to set the tournament alight, all are important role players and especially Hrickova who will continue drifting into the paint to do her usual fantastic job on the glass.
In The Paint - Wisla-Can Pack should be relying heavily on both Janell Burse and Ewelina Kobryn to pose their main threat inside but Burse hasn't had her best season efficiency wise and is not finishing as any player of her class would want to. She does however remain a major threat and could pick things up at any time.
Kobryn has done a better job finishing around the hoop and both are currently averaging double digits. Fortunately for Coach Hernandez, Magdalena Leciejewska has been in efficient form with Katarzyna Krezel and Dorota Gburcyzk-Sikora providing additional strength, mainly off the bench.
For the visitors, Candice Dupree and Charde Houston are a formidable duo - the pair average over 34 points per game between them which underlines just how critical it is if one of them doesn't deliver and has an off-night. Also look out for Lucia Kupcikova to weigh in with some useful supporting numbers too.
The Hot Hands - Erin Phillips is the reigning Player Of The Week so she definitely has the hot hand as far as Wisla Can Pack are concerned! If she gets anywhere near her form of last week it could be a long night for the visitors. The Australian played almost the full game against TTT Riga and rattled off 25 points, four rebounds, six assists and six steals while impressively committing only one turnover.
Home forward Magdalena Leciejewska meanwhile has been in great form during the last couple of games and is 12 of 15 inside this season so watch out for her contribution.
For Good Angels Kosice, their upturn in fortunes have been largely due to the offensive production of Charde Houston. During the last three games when victories have been forthcoming, Houston has averaged over 21 points per game. The irrepressible Dupree meanwhile is averaging a near season double-double and her powerful game is always more than lukewarm to say the least!
|Erin Phillips stole the spotlight from the perimeter, but Magdalena Leciejewska has been consistently good in the paint in the last games|
The ‘X Factors' - The perimeter shooting of the home team in particular could be vital since Good Angels Kosice will give them looks from outside and Jose Hernandez will be hoping his players can take full advantage. On the flip-side, Good Angels Kosice get their hands in the passing lanes and can pressure the ball handler to good effect. The hosts will have to look after the ball well or can expect to be punished as Kosice are a team happy to get steals and get those all important transition scores when available. The other ‘X Factor' has to be the loss of Latvia National Team star Gunta Basko on the wing whose versatility, talent and good decision making could have ruffled the feathers of Kosice.
Rising Star Watch - After opening day defeats and with pressure to get results, neither team have, or are likely to utilise any of the younger members of their respective rosters. Both teams and this game is very much concerned with experienced EuroLeague Women players.
Did You Know? - Wisla Can-Pack are currently the most fouled team in Euroleague Women.
Fighting For Fitness - Gunta Basko is still ruled out for Wisla Can-Pack with her foot injury while Zuzana Zirkova has some injury issues which she is struggling to shrug off.
What They Say
Good Angels Kosice All Star Candice Dupree: "This is a big game for us because Wisla Can Pack are considered one of the best teams in our group and in all of EuroLeague Women. Competing against a team that went to the Final Four last season will be a good test for us. If we can start and finish the game at a high intensity and be aggressive for 40 minutes, this should make for a great game.
"So far, this season has been all that we've expected. We got off to a rough start against Cras Basket Taranto but have been playing very well ever since. Charde Houston and Zuzana Zirkova have been great additions to the team. If we can continue to keep playing well and as a team, I don't see why we can't make it to EuroLeague Women Final Four."
Wisla Can-Pack powerhouse Janell Burse: "They have really talented players. It will be a difficult game like every EuroLeague Women game is because all the teams have good players and good coaches. We're looking forward to it. We have to watch Candice Dupree as last year it was her and Angel McCoughtry and she's definitely going right back into the same mode - being a star for the Good Angels team. She deserves a lot of attention, but so do the other talented players and for example Charde Houston - they're good too."
Good Angels Kosice Sports Manager Ivan Benninghaus: "It will surely be a very difficult and important match in terms of the development of the current situation in Group A. We lost the first match but we were able to win the next three matches. We would like to continue with this tendency.
"Krakow had a big win against TTT Riga last time and they are rising higher in the group. It can be important how Krakow will handle their loss of a key player in Basko, because her abilities will surely be missed. On the other hand, we have a health problem with Zuzana Žirková and we don't know if she will play the match on Wednesday. So we will just have to see the result."
Wisla Can-Pack and Poland National Team player Paulina Pawlak: "Good Angels Kosice and Cras Basket Taranto are very good teams and this is why this game is so important. It's good that we are playing at home, with our fans. We know it will be hard, but we are going everything to make the best preparations we can and we will fight for sure. I believe we can beat them!"