PaulBall: Destiny's Child

08 March 2010

Paul Nilsen Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various web-sites and publications across Europe. If you would like to contact Paul you can e-mail him here  

The line-up for the EuroLeague Women Final Four is now complete but the big question on everybody's lips is whether the fairytale of Coach Jose Hernandez and Wisla Can-Pack will have one more glorious chapter.

You have to suppose that anything is possible under the guidance of the man with the Midas touch when it comes to this tournament. As if back-to-back appearances at the last weekend of the season wasn't enough, this one was made extra special with a couple of added dimensions.

Primarily the new Spanish National Team boss not even knowing he would even be coaching in the competition this season and the fact that he has also guided Wisla Can-Pack to what is their very first appearance at the Final Four.

Jose Ignacio Hernandez (Halcon Avenida)
Can Jose Hernandez keep the dream alive for Wisla?
When you actually take stock, stand back and think about the circumstances that have unfolded ever since the moment when CSKA Moscow withdrew from the tournament last summer, you realise that quite honestly? You could hardly make it up.

I mean Hernandez has also managed to get into a Final Four and avoid co-favourites Ekat and Spartak in the semi-finals - hence the term ‘Midas Touch.' Lying in wait is now a real possibility of an appearance in the actual 2010 Final itself.

In terms of the match-up with Ros Casares, I truly think no matter what is said publically between now and the big tip-off, I genuinely believe everyone in Valencia will have rooted for a Brno win during that Quarter-Final series decider.

Never one to duck a challenge, I guess that Coach Canto will relish pitting his wits against his fellow play-caller but in reality, could probably do without having to go up against a team and coach for whom EuroLeague Women 2010 is looking more and more like their destiny.

At half-time in game three against Brno, the fate of Wisla remained in their own hands in a tight but relentlessly fascinating contest. I was sticking to my guns by backing the home team as evidenced by my twittering although at that specific point, there was work to do. Naturally after their wins in Rivas, I was wary of Brno having already spoiled by potentially flawless predictions in the last sixteen.

However, as I anticipated, the depth and team ethic of the Polish club really shone through. With Iziane Castro Marques doing the damage early in a high tempo first half and Liron Cohen adeptly pulling the strings, it was imperative they picked up their rebounding and so it proved.

Having been sick and below-par during game two, a stellar second half performance by the influential Janell Burse made the difference, as did a superb double-double by Ewelina Kobryn with the pair providing the much needed muscle and hustle inside to keep the visitors off that all important offensive glass.

On the subject of which, Coach Bobrovsky and his players also deserve immense credit for playing their part in some great games this season. To have stood on the brink of a place in Final Four after a campaign that has been far from plain sailing at times was absolutely commendable.

Fittingly it was a score by Marta Fernandez, the heartbeat of the team that sealed a historic day in Krakow and sparked jubilation befitting of winning the title itself. The Wisla-Can Pack fans have also been truly sensational all season long in their backing of the club and that support certainly reached a crescendo when the final buzzer sounded last week.

Sure, it is easy when you are winning to sing and support your team but the Wisla supporters are rarely any different when their team have lost. They can now look forward to a trip to Final Four but what has really come to the fore after this historic achievement is the need to get these terrific supporters housed in a new facility - one that is more worthy of their efforts and passion for the game.

It has certainly been a big week for Womens basketball in Poland. After the exploits of Wisla, we all now train our eyes up to the North of the country and to Gdynia for the 2010 All Star Game. An interesting link for several reasons and not least because it wasn't all joy for Wisla-Can Pack on the home front last week.

Just 48 hours after celebrating their momentous evening in ELW, they found themselves thrust into the semi-finals of the Polish Cup where they were brought straight back down to earth with an almighty bump.

They were knocked at the semi-final stage by fellow EuroLeague Women side Lotos Gdynia who went on to lift the Cup meaning you can expect to see plenty of smiles on the faces of these fans as well as those from Krakow at the All Star game!

Thankfully, there is plenty of time for us to savour the anticipation of Final Four although for me it is slightly different. For I have everything to lose in terms of reputation when it comes to tipping teams for success!

Having successfully predicted seven of the eight quarter-finalists and then being correct with all of the teams reaching Final Four, I now have some serious mulling over to do before I stick my neck back on the line! I am sure you don't mind me being smug for a few weeks but that could all soon change and blow up in my face.

You see, the task of reviewing these Final Four match-ups and delivering more accurate predictions is made even harder when along come the likes of Wisla to remind you that surprises and fairytales do happen in basketball.

This particular one is already worthy of living long in the ELW memory but for Coach Hernandez and his players, it isn't over just yet.

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