| ||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. |
There are defining moments in the careers of all athletes.
The EuroLeague Women Final Four was one long defining moment for Alba Torrens, Silvia Dominguez and Sancho Lyttle, Spain national team players competing for a Spanish club a very long way from home.
The trio made the journey to Ekaterinburg, Russia, and it proved worthwhile for themselves, their teammates, coaches and the Halcon Avenida fans that also travelled.
Dominguez, the Avenida captain, and Torrens, the dazzling, born-to-thrill shooting guard/small forward, turned in solid performances to help Avenida end the four-year reign of Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje with a 68-59 win in the Final.
|Sancho Lyttle was a player on a mission in Ekaterinburg, to do whatever it takes to bring the trophy home. She did just that, registering a double-double in both Final Four games|
Dominguez had a season-high 16 points in the title game and Torrens weighed in with 13.
Lyttle was never better.
A member of the All-Star Five at last year's FIBA World Championship with Spain, she had 12 points and 13 rebounds on Sunday, two days after tearing apart Ros Casares with 17 points and 11 boards.
The voters could very easily have made Dominguez or Lyttle the MVP, but the honor went to Torrens.
In the case of Avenida, the award should be M.V.T. - Most Valuable Team.
"The MVP is usually given to the winning team," Torrens said.
"In this case, they have given it to me but it has been a team effort which is the most important thing.
"We are a team."
Rest assured, all 12 players mattered for Avenida, including veteran guard Isa Sanchez, a former national teamer herself.
Sanchez didn't log a single minute on the court at the Final Four, yet she cheered from the bench like her life depended on it.
She could not have been any happier if she had been named MVP herself.
"This is huge," Sanchez said.
"This is an incredible title against a very powerful rival that has (one of) the biggest budget (s) in Europe.
"The key has been the unity that we have shown throughout the campaign and we dedicate this victory to our fans that have always been there for us."
One's heart has to go out to UMMC's fans, management, coaches and players because they yet again finished third in the tournament after losing to Sparta&K in Friday's Semi-Finals.
There can be nothing but praise for Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje, who had a remarkable season despite the loss of so many players from 2010-11, and the mid-season exits of Lauren Jackson (injury) and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota (free transfer to Fenerbahce).
|Halcon Avenida captain Silvia Dominguez saved the best for last, coming up with a season-high 16 points in the Final|
There weren't many that gave Sparta&K a chance to beat Fenerbahce in the Quarter-Finals, nor hosts UMMC at the Final Four, yet they claimed victories against both.
But stand up and applaud the Avenida players, the coaches and the fans.
This was their year.
Hopefully the supply-and-demand aspect of big-time basketball that sees rich clubs out-spend others to sign the best players doesn't rob Avenida of the core of its team.
Wouldn't it be nice to see Torrens, Dominguez and Lyttle try to help Avenida defend their title next season?
Maybe the club will have the financial resources to keep all three.
All Torrens is thinking about right now is playing basketball, winning and having fun.
"I am delighted," she said.
"This is huge.
"To qualify for the Final Four is incredible but to have won it is indescribable."
Avenida couldn't rest until the final buzzer on Sunday because a four-time defending champion like Sparta&K was going to fight until the end.
"I didn't think we would win until the final minute," Torrens said.
"I didn't want to think about it.
"I didn't believe it until the final whistle.
"We are now going to enjoy this even though on Thursday we have a very important league game."
"This Cup is going to bring a lot of joy and we will go for more in order to cap off a great season after the Bronze medal at the World Championship with the national team."
What of Dominguez?
Will we see her in a Spain shirt this summer in Poland?
A former star in Spain's youth teams, she desperately wants to play for the senior team this summer.
"I don't know," she had said before leaving for Russia.
"I would like to be at the EuroBasket but it's the coach who decides.
"We know in Spain there are a lot of good point guards."
Dominguez was asked if winning the EuroLeague would boost her chances.
"Yes, if we win the EuroLeague Women title, it would help but we'll have to wait until May to find out," Dominguez had said.