Taj McWilliams and Gambrinus Brno held their nerve against MiZo Pecs on Friday and won 71-61 to reach the final of the FIBA EuroLeague Women in Samara.
McWilliams made sure there was only going to be one winner, striking two important early blows.
Andrea Karolyi's three-pointer midway through the second quarter had given MiZo Pecs a 27-25 advantage, however McWilliams, a 34-year-old Texan, tied the contest with a jump shot and then 70 seconds later buried a three for a 30-27 lead.
|Taj McWilliams was once again the lynchpin in a Brno victory|
Gambrinus, who lost to MiZo in last year's third place game, were unable to build a comfortable lead and the Hungarians fought back.
With 35 seconds to play in the third quarter, they tied the game at 50-50 on a pair of free throws by center Daliborka Vilipic.
Brno kept their cool.
Australian international Alicia Poto came to the fore and hit a three-pointer with 19 seconds left in the third, and MiZo Pecs were never level again.
Pecs' lack of scoring depth was a factor all night, and only Vilipic (22 points) and captain Dalma Ivanyi were able to step up for the Hungarian side.
"To get to the final of the final four you need to have extra individual performances," said Ivanyi.
"I think we didn’t have that today and that was the problem. Everybody was waiting for someone else to make it happen. We did have a couple of moments, Dalibor Vilipic played really good, but I think the key was that we couldn’t maintain it for 40 minutes today and we didn’t have as many players scoring as Brno had.
In the key moments when the game was tight, they always found someone to step up and get their team out of their slump and we only had moments when we were playing good."
McWilliams was in dominating form, scoring 25 points on 11 of 18 shooting, including two of four from behind the arc.
As a team, Brno shot the ball well from three-point range, making nine of 19 (47.4%).
MiZo Pecs hurt their chances by turning the ball over 20 times, something Brno did on only 12 occasions.
Defense was a big factor in Brno's second half and they held Pecs to just 9 points in the final quarter.
"I think one thing we really did well was to scout them. I think we knew what we wanted to do on defense, to stop their main players and where they want to get the ball to score. I think we did that really, really well, especially in the second half," said point guard Poto.
We knew what we wanted to do on defense, we’re a big team so we could afford to switch when they ran sets which they always scored with in previous games. I think they just got tired, we kept running at them and we hit a couple of good shots against their zone, so we broke them down. They ran out of legs."
Ivanyi, MiZo Pecs' star guard, had 14 points but turned the ball over six times, while dishing out just three assists.
Brno came so close to reaching last year's championship game but lost 57-52 to Lotos VBW Clima of Poland.
Now Jan Bobrovsky's team, who captured their domestic cup at the weekend by beating USK Blex Praha 110-66, are 40 minutes away from being crowned European champions.
They await the winner of the semi-final between hosts Samara and Lietuvos Telekomas Vilnius.