By Paul Nilsen
Sixth Time Lucky For SISU
After losing their first five EuroCup Women games, there was finally a little piece of history made when Danish club SISU claimed a historic first win in European club competition. While for most people, the result might have appeared insignificant and indeed irrelevant since it was effectively a dead rubber contest, it certainly mattered to the hosts. It was a momentous day for both SISU as a club and Women's basketball in Denmark. Head coach Hrannar Holm described the feeling as being similar to winning a Cup and that is all you need to know while Stephanie Madden came up with my favourite quote of the season when she showed her passion with the simply but powerful, "I love it. I live for this." Congratulations to all involved with the Gentofte based club!
Zahui Takes Centre Stage Again
|Guarded by two, but can't be denied: Amanda Zahui|
When Lotto Young Cats and Telge Basket matched up, fans got the chance to see two of the brightest center prospects in European basketball go head to head again as 1993 born Amanda Zahui and Emma Meesseman duelled in the paint.
It was Zahui who came out on top in this particular game with the Swedish youth star becoming the first player in the competition this season to accumulate double digits on the offensive glass as she pulled down an outstanding 11 offensive rebounds. She also put up the most monstrous double-double of the season so far with 31 points and 18 rebounds.
It's just a shame that only Meesseman (check her profile in the race to Young Women's Player of the Year) made it with the Young Cats to the Eighth Finals and we won't get to see Zahui play in EuroCup Women again this season. There really can't have been many more impressive debuts in European club competition by a young player.
The only consolation is that we still hopefully have another ten to fifteen seasons to revel in these two stars battling against each other not only for club but also for country with Belgium and Sweden two nations who need a boost in their pursuit of success and qualification for major tournaments.
Performance Of The Week - Optimum Display From Ted Ankara
It was a must-win game for opponent Nantes Reze who made the final eight of the competition last season and yet Turkish side Optimum Ted Ankara still came out hard to pick up a nice victory to finish 5-1 in Group C and knock the French club out of the tournament in the process.
It continues to be a good year for veteran Gulsah Akkaya who after coming off the bench for the silver medal winning Turkish national team, is stepping up at club level along with exciting and rapidly maturing 20 year old prospect Ozge Yavas.
Stats Don't Lie
It wasn't just Zahui who was posting season-high rebounding numbers since Lyubov Alyoshkina claimed 22 rebounds for Olimpia in the game against Maccabi Bnot, the most boards anyone has pulled down in a single game so far.
Another couple of interesting things to note are that reigning champions Elitzur Ramla are the only team to average a shooting percentage over 50% right now while MBK Ruzomberok are the only club averaging over 40% from beyond the three-point line.
The dominance of Dynamo Kursk in the statistical categories is well noted too since they are leading in scoring, shot blocking and assists.
Rising Star Round-Up
In addition to the stellar work already mentioned by dueling centers Emma Meesseman and Amanda Zahui, there were many other interesting things to note during the last week of the regular season. Maryia Filonchyk harvested her third double digit score of the season for Olimpia Grodno while 17 year old team-mate Maryia Papova scored 6 points, the best of her career playing in the competition.
Pelin Bilgic claimed her second score of 8 points this season for Botas and did so despite playing for just six minutes against WBC Dynamo while Hind Ben Abdelkader (check her profile in the Young Women's Player of the Year poll) could easily be described as one of the most influential rising stars in the competition. The 1995 born Belgian forward managed to retain her record of scoring in every game for Dexia-Namur and claimed 9 points and 5 assists in the crucial win at AD Vagos.
All Eyes Forward
Now the eighth finals pairings have been set, there is much to look forward albeit not until next month! There are some potentially great match-ups and I think Cup holders Elitzur Ramla will face a big test against Kayseri Kaskispor who look a little better than their 14th place seeding if their form in an intense Turkish league is anything to go by.
Also catching the eye is the all French match-up between Arras and Basket Landes. The former started their domestic season with a huge win over the latter but since then, Basket Landes have had by far the better record in the French League.