|Alba Torrens was voted MVP of the Final Four with her 13 points in the Final certainly underlining her status as one of the top players in Europe|
Halcon Avenida ended the four-year reign of Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje by winning the EuroLeague Women title game 68-59 in Ekaterinburg on Sunday.
The Salamanca club, beaten by Sparta&K in the championship game two seasons ago when they hosted the Final Four in Spain, got on top of Pokey Chatman's team early and never gave up the lead.
With Lucas Mondelo's team boasting the impressive frontline of Sancho Lyttle and Erika De Souza, it was the backcourt of captain Silva Dominguez and Alba Torrens and sharpshooter Belinda Snell that wreaked havoc in the first half.
The three players had seven points apiece at the break when Avenida led 30-22 and when Sparta&K made a run early in the third quarter, Dominguez stopped them cold in their tracks with a tip-in.
That started a 13-2 surge for Avenida that was finished off by the point guard's jump shot with 4:42 to go in the third.
That gave the Salamanca outfit a 43-28 advantage and took Dominguez's points haul to 11.
With 2:45 to play in the frame, shouts of "Vamos!" echoed through the arena when a Torrens three-ball stretched the lead to 50-30.
Sparta&K continued to fight, however, and chipped away at the deficit.
When Sparta&K center Taj McWilliams hit a jumper with 1:45 to play in the game, the Russians had shaved 14 points off the 20-point advantage.
The free-throw line then became a huge factor for the Spaniards.
|Sancho Lyttle was also huge for Halcon Avenida, as the center had a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds|
Epiphanny Prince fouled Anke De Mondt and the Belgium international calmly sank two free-throws.
McWilliams went to the other end and scored to make it a six-point game again, but Avenida kept their noses in front.
Lyttle drew a foul and also made two at the charity stripe to take the advantage back to eight.
Prince and Sparta&K refused to go quietly.
The American guard buried a three-ball to reduce the arrears to five but Noelle Quinn fouled De Mondt and she once again hit two at the free-throws for a seven-point advantage.
After a Sparta&K timeout, Quinn's pass was intercepted by De Mondt and the Belgian was again fouled and made two more at the line.
Chatman's team played hard for the remainder of the game but Avenida continued to make free-throws and secured the most famous win in their history.
Avenida only made 21 of 29 free-throws, but sank their last 10 inside the final 1:35 to seal the triumph.
Dominguez, the captain, had 16 points in her finest-ever game for the club.
Torrens scored 13 points and Lyttle had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
For Sparta&K, McWilliams finished with a game-high 17 points and Sue Bird had 16.
Prince added 12 points in defeat.
Halcon Avenida Salamanca Forward Anna Montanana:
"It was a difficult game; it was hard to score in the beginning. Both teams played neck to neck, but we believed and succeeded to take the lead."
Halcon Avenida Salamanca Head Coach Lucas Mondelo:
"Our plan for the game was to stop the important players of the opponent - Sue Bird and Epifaniya Prints. Moreover, we used alternative defenses, some new moments, built our play from inside to outside and everything turned out well for us. We came out nervous; everybody usually is in all finals like this. At the end Sue Bird took her team on her shoulders, and once again proved her worth. I must say, Sparta&K is a great team, they have great coaching staff, but we prevailed."
Sparta&K Guard Ilona Korstin:
"As you could see, the score of all the games was low. All the players had a hard time scoring - excitement told on them. It's really frustrating, that after all difficulties we reached final, but failed to make the last step. We were ready to compete with Avenida, but shooting percentage was awful."
Sparta&K MR Vidnoje Head Coach Pokey Chatman:
"Congratulations to Avenida for their win. We were very much aware of this team and ready to oppose them, but all the players were tired. They were more aggressive, and built better defense. Our shooting percentage was 10% less."