By Paul Nilsen
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EuroLeague Women legend DeLisha Milton-Jones has admitted missing out on a Final Eight spot in Istanbul would break her heart.
ZVVZ USK Prague is preparing to do battle with Wisla Can-Pack in what promises to be an intense Round 2 match-up and the merest notion of crashing out of the competition is something which is already proving difficult to bear.
"Missing out on the Final Eight would be heart-breaking for both the team and me personally" said the forward.
"I live for post-season action in EuroLeague Women and it's been long overdue for me to rekindle that flame.
"But for now, our focus is just on the task in hand and for sure, the series against Wisla will be a good one.
"Both teams are hungry for victories and will fight to the very end."
The Czech club certainly will have a fight on their hands since they have been rocked by a season ending ankle injury to Ilona Burgrova and with Milton-Jones herself not guaranteed to be at full fitness, the frontcourt is beginning to look a little under-cooked.
Nevertheless, the experienced American is adamant her team has the confidence to emerge victorious whoever is on the floor and that defence will be the key to the series.
She said, "It will definitely come down to who plays better defence for the longest period of time, seeing that both teams have no problems with scoring.
"Wisla has a coach in Jose Hernandez that is battle-tested and knows what type of effort and focus his team will need. He has a lot of experience in post-season play and will rise to the challenge.
"But, our team is hungry for the chance to make a lot of noise and solidify ourselves as a play-off ready team. We are ready and have a newfound confidence about us."
While optimistic of her team's chances, Milton-Jones was honest enough to admit it hasn't been a smooth ride this season but their experiences during the first phase of the tournament are likely to be invaluable during the series with Wisla.
"Round 1 was definitely tough for us this year since we had to face many monstrous sized teams that were well equipped for post season play.
"I think we held our own pretty good and in spite of our record, we are proud of our efforts.
"The highlights for us was beating Valencia and having great opportunities, late in many other games, against top ranked opponents to win.
"We beat ourselves many times this season and that has left a taste of defeat with just the right amount of sweetness that has kept us hungry for the games to come."
According to Wisla Can-Pack center Milka Bjelica, the biggest challenge USK Prague will face is likely to be the special atmosphere in Krakow and especially if a third deciding game is necessary.
"First of all, I think that we have done an excellent job up until now with our position in the play-off rankings meaning have the possibility of playing a third game at our home court.
"For us, it is very important to play in Krakow and in front of our fantastic fans.
"But, in the play-offs, all teams are good and there's no relaxation at all and especially against a team like Prague."
SEASON SO FAR
THE HOT HANDS
It will be interesting to see how many minutes Erin Phillips plays on her expected return to action but if she does get some decent court time, then it looks to be a terrific match-up with Lindsay Whalen. The American has also recovered from serious injury this season and is yet to find top gear but now would be the perfect time to dig out a big performance for USK Prague.