It may not have been pretty, but Gdynia’s tight victory over Brno displayed the type of intensity and tenacity needed to win a championship. The result propels the Polish side to their second EuroLeague Women Final in 2 years. As in 2002, when they last reached this stage, they will face French team Valenciennes for the title on Sunday.
The first quarter was an indicator that the game would not be remembered for its aesthetic value. It finished 15:11 in favour of Brno and was a harbringer of the type of low scoring style to come.
The 2nd quarter proved to be no different. Gdynia center Margo Dydek did not make any shots in the first half ((0/3 field goals), but she had 2 blocked shots and set the tone for her team’s stifling defense.
Gdynia shot 39% from the floor in the first 20 minutes, point guard Elaine Powell paced the team with 9 points on 3/4 shooting.
Brno were not much more successful. They hit 34% from the floor and could only make 2/5 free throws.
Going into the second half the score was just 29:25 in favour of Brno and the game was in the balance. Brno began strongly, but it was Gdynia who stole the momentum and began to build a small lead. Once again it was not pretty and most of the Polish team’s points came from the foul line. Nonetheless, Agnieszka Bibrzycka and Margo Dydek combined for 10 consecutive points and Gdynia led 36:42 going into the final period.
The Polish opened the 4th with 2 baskets to make the lead 10 points (36:46), but on the next possession Powell fouled out. Brno took advantage and closed the gap to 3 points on a driving lay-up from Hana Machova, but would get no closer.
At the death it was Powell’s replacement, Limor Mizrachi, who sealed the victory. Her drive and basket with 1 minute on the clock gave Gdynia a 6-point lead (50:56) and she followed that by splitting a pair of free throws to make the game 100% safe.
Mizrachi finished as Gdynia’s top scorer with 11 points. It was Natalia Vodopyanova though who was the team’s best player on the day. She played outstanding defense, finishing the game with 8 steals, 8 rebounds and 10 points. Bibrzycka also had 10, but missed all 4 of her three-point attempts.