| ||Jeff Taylor has been covering European basketball since 1997, when he first worked on the television program SLAM. He has been a basketball writer and broadcaster since that time, traveling the continent and covering the game in depth for FIBA Europe since its launch in 2003. |
Katie Douglas must have had a crystal ball when she previewed the EuroLeague Women Quarter-Final series between Ros Casares and Bourges Basket.
The Ros Casares veteran said it would be "a pretty ugly three-game series" and so it proved to be in Game 1 on Tuesday night at La Fonteta in Valencia.
There were missed lay-ups, including a wide-open one by scoring-machine Douglas in the first half.
There were instances when, under token defensive pressure, the point guards simply fumbled the ball away.
Rebbekah Brunson, maybe the best of all the players at last year's EuroLeague Women All-Star Game when she was on the books of Cras Basket Taranto, was so out of sorts on Tuesday that she could have been the star attraction at a bricklayers convention.
She made just two of 14 shots from the floor but compensated with tough defense and rebounding.
|Sónia Reis averaged 11.8 points and five rebounds per game in the Spanish Liga Femenina with Girona before signing with Ros Casares in late January|
Brunson did hit all seven of her free-throws.
Ros allowed Bourges to cut a 16-point deficit late in the first half to just one point midway through the third quarter but ended up winning 65-58, with Douglas pouring in 27 points.
Ros Casares clearly need some time to adjust to new coach Natalia Hejkova, whom they appointed immediately after their Eighth-Finals triumph over MKB Euroleasing Sopron.
The one positive development for Ros Casares in the victory was the emergence of Sonia Reis.
The 27-year-old power forward joined the club at the end of January and in her fourth EuroLeague Women game, played a season-high 22 minutes against Bourges.
"To tell you the truth, I wasn't hoping to play so much," she said.
"(But) I knew what the coach wanted. She wanted me to play aggressive on defense and when I had the ball, to play (with freedom)."
She hardly put a foot wrong.
Reis buried a first-half jumper, blocked a shot and grabbed three rebounds.
When asked about playing for Hejkova, a coach that won back-to-back EuroLeague Women crowns with Ruzomberok and later did the same with Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje, it's evident that Reis is still coming to terms with her recent move to Valencia.
She smiled and said: "I'm nervous with all of this.
"I'm a simple girl in a big world, but I really like her.
|Bourges had a hard time finding the way to the basket in Game 1. Endene Miyem was her team's top scorer with just seven points|
"She is really clear about what she wants.
"She likes motivating me and says, 'You can do this. Play good defense and don't make stupid fouls.'
"She's helping me a lot. I'm learning a lot with this team."
Most observers would describe goings-on at Ros Casares since their runners-up finish last season as strange, including the decision not to retain most of the players and the timing of the recent coaching change.
One thing that no one is going to be questioning after Tuesday was the club's pursuit of Reis.
The only one who would question the signing is Reis herself.
When she walks off the court, Reis looks like a player that has just pinched herself to know that she's not dreaming and that she is playing for one of the giants in Europe.
"I was really surprised when my agent called and said, 'Ros Casares need a player, they want you and they want you to go now' because I'd never been in a European league," Reis said.
"I was really surprised and kind of scared how it would be like to be with stars.
"This team has a lot of stars and I'm just a simple player but they treat me well, make me feel at home and they are trying to help me out as much as they can.
"I am feeling much more freedom on the court every game."
Reis just doesn't want to disappoint anyone.
She said: "I was like, 'Even if I don't score, I want to play defense so she will be happy.'
"If you are good on defense, then the offense will come."
Ros Casares will be in a different situation on Friday when they travel to France.
It's all part of the adventure for Reis.
There is a rich basketball tradition at Bourges, where fans have seen the club win four EuroLeague Women titles, the last of them in 2001.
"For us, it's going to be really terrifying there," Reis said.
"It's going to be at their court, their house.
"We'll do our best."