|Becky Hammon had a team-high 16 points in Sparta&K's comeback win over Wisla|
Turning Point: While the devastating 10-0 start to the fourth quarter effectively killed off Wisla Can-Pack it was the uplift in three-point shooting by Sparta&K during the third period which got them back into the game.
Game Hero: Evgenia Belyakova came off the bench for Sparta&K and made a huge impact with three priceless triple from just four attempts.
Stats Don't Lie: Sparta&K M. R. Vidnoje usually shoot the ball well from downtown but were 1-9 in the first half. They were an eye-popping 9-11 in the second half and this sea-change in the conversion rate was the story of the game.
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Four-time champions Sparta&K M. R. Vidnoje became the first team to claim a EuroLeague Women Final Eight victory after shooting down Wisla-Can Pack 77-70 in the Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul.
Without the experience of Russian national team centre Irina Ospipova and the dynamic Jelena Milovanovic, it looked a long way back for Pokey Chatman and her short-handed team after a potentially disastrous 16-2 start.
But, showing their strength of character and champion spirit, they recovered and posted a blistering second half shooting display from downtown to leave a shocked Wisla Can-Pack trailing in their wake.
The Polish club had dominated the first quarter with their aggressive approach paying dividends. Strong defence set the tone for them to race into a 14 point lead, helped by a pair of three-pointers by Anke De Mondt.
Coach Chatman called a much needed time-out for Sparta&K and this not only solved their offensive drought but also shored up their leaky defence. The uplift in defensive intensity was palpable and they posted a 12-2 run either side of the first quarter break get to within a point of Wisla during the second period.
But, their polish opponents scored the next eight points and that helped them pull away again and establish a 35-29 half-time advantage which they extended to eleven after the re-start.
However, Sparta&K began to warm up from three-point range and then got hot from outside as they began to fight their way back with a great run as a Jelena Skerovic triple put them 44-42 in front.
Their devastating three-point shooting streak continued into the final quarter and having made five in a row from the arc, it spelled the end for Wisla as Sparta&K secured a precious first day win.
Sparta&K M. R. Vidnoje head coach Pokey Chatman
"Every time we play this team they are extremely physical. I think we missed some shots early and some of them were open. But it is so difficult to get clean shots because they are very good on the ball and their rotations. We didn't make much early on but fortunately we did steal a few possessions with our zone. That gave us momentum and we really did get it done on the defensive end which allowed us to get on the transition. We knew it would be a battle because it always is againgt this team. We are just fortunate to make a few more shots in the second half. "
Sparta& K guard Rebekka Hammon
"We didn't start the game the way wanted to. They are a very good defensive team. Nothing is easy offensively against them. We have a lot of respect for them. They are well coached and they smacked us good a couple of times. It was just a hard-fought game. Both teams played physical and we are happy to come out with a win."
Wisla Can-Pack head coach Jose Hernandez
"We knew that it was hard to beat Sparta&K. It was the most important game of the group for us. We had a great first half with very good defense and inside game. But we made lots of mistakes and committed turnovers in the second."
Wisla guard/forward Anke De Mont
"It was a great game for both teams. We started really good but in the second half Sparta&K came out strong. They did not allow us to score easy points and won the game."