Dream Season Takes Halcon Avenida To Title Game

03.04.2009

Halcon Avenida continued their stunning run in the EuroLeague Women on Friday night by beating MKB Euroleasing Sopron in the 2009 Final Four to reach the Final.

Le'Coe Willingham scored 20 points and Donnette Snow had 17 along with 18 rebounds in an 85-78 triumph.

Victory for the Final Four hosts means the fans in Salamanca will now watch their team challenge two-time defending champions Spartak Moscow Region in the title game.

The crowd at Avenida always gives Jose Hernandez's team an extra spark and so it proved against Sopron.

"The fans have been unbelievable," said Avenida's Isa Sanchez, who had a team-high 10 points in the first half.

"Our crowd is amazing.

"The dream continues for us and we are in the final of the EuroLeague Women. This is an amazing experience for us.

"Tomorrow we will think about Spartak but right now, we are going to enjoy this win."

Despite the crowd, most will expect a Spartak side that is loaded with international superstars like Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and Sylvia Fowles to go on and capture a third straight title.

Avenida, who beat Spartak's Russian rivals CSKA Moscow in the Eighth-Finals, will do everything in their power to deny them.

"Can we go all the way?" Sanchez said. "We will certainly give our best. We have gotten this far."

Avenida defeated Sopron because of their interior play.

In the first half, they out-rebounded Sopron 20-8 and led by as many as 12 points before going to the changing rooms with a 41-35 advantage.

Willingham and Snow caught pass after pass on the low blocks and powered their way up for baskets. And when the shots didn't fall, both players were usually there to grab the offensive rebound.

They remained on top in the third quarter, but Kathleen MacLeod poured in five straight points to trim the Sopron deficit to 55-52 with 2:27 to go in the frame.

The Hungarian team had a chance to draw even closer after a Sanchez turnover.

But Edit Ratkaine was called for travelling and Avenida outscored the visitors 6-1 the rest of the period for a 61-53 lead.

Avenida went in front 72-57 on a Snow jump shot midway through the last quarter and Sopron got no closer than six points the rest of the way.

Amber Holt, who had 15 of her game-high 21 points in the first half, said: "It was a hard game but we fought until the end.

"It's not easy to play against the hosts and in this arena. Rebounding was a problem but we gave our all.

"This has been a good journey for us and we have a young team. We need to keep on working hard and come back stronger next season."

Avenida ended up out-rebounding Sopron 38-30.

MKB stayed within striking distance for much of the contest because of their ability to knock down shots from behind the arc. They finished 10 of 23 compared to just four of 13 for Avenida.


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