|Rebekka Hammon delivered her best performance of the season, falling one assist short of a double-double|
Veteran Becky Hammon rolled back the years with a scintillating performance to fire Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje to a 91-84 play-off victory against a resilient Municipal Targoviste in an entertaining EuroLeague Women shootout.
The guard finished with 23 points, dished up a fabulous nine assists and managed to drain five triples from just six attempts in a game-winning performance to hand the advantage in the series to her team.
Playing without point guard Nika Baric or center Isabelle Yacoubou, Sparta&K produced an inauspicious first half, particularly defensively.
They found themselves tied 46-46 heading to the locker rooms, having given up more points during the first twenty minutes as they had in any regular season game.
Romanian national team star Gabriela Marginean claimed 15 of her 22 points in the first half for Targoviste, although Sparta&K head coach Pokey Chatman ensured she was well shackled when the play resumed.
And, this made the difference as the hosts outscored their opponents 26-14 in the third quarter to take control, with Hammon continuing to pull the strings with real aplomb.
At 72-60 heading into the final quarter, the writing was on the wall for Targoviste, although they kept plugging away and even in defeat, ensured they finished on a high to take some momentum and confidence into the second game.
The other main reason for Sparta&K riding out winners was the three-point shooting of Evgeniia Belyakova who just like Hammon, also managed to sink five triples.
Marginean and Matee Ajavon shared 41 points for Targoviste whilst Candice Dupree was excellent under the basket for Vidnoje with 20 points from 10-of-14 floor shooting.
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Targoviste head coach Florin Nini:
"We played a great game versus a great opponent. On the one hand I believe that Sparta&K is one of the favourites to win the EuroLeague Women. Their whole organization is a model for championship teams. On the other hand my girls once more proved that we belonged in the EuroLeague Women. I am really proud of them. It will be an interesting game in Targoviste."
Targoviste player Gabriela Marginean:
"I am proud of the way we played. We came here knowing it would be a difficult game and by the fact that we had nothing to lose we played well and were in the game throughout most of it. I really hope that we have one more good game in us so that at home we can once more make our fans and city proud. Congratulations to Sparta&K."
Sparta&K head coach Pokey Chatman:
"We have to play better defense in order to achieve our targets. We cannot expect to win by allowing our opponent to score more than 80 points. We were fortunate that today some of our more experienced players came through for us. If we do not make some good stops and get some more rebounds we are going to have a very difficult time on their home court and against their impressive fans."
Sparta&K player Evgeniia Beliakova:
"Targoviste ran a lot and that caused us many problems. But our good zone defense helped us even things and eventually we found our rhythm and got the desired result. In this game we missed some players who have played an important role in our team and hopefully in our next game they will be with us. I really do not want to play a third game."