|Forward Anna Petrakova is Dynamo Kursk's leading scorer and seventh overall in the competiton with 17.6 points per contest|
By Paul Nilsen
In-form Anna Petrakova has spoken of the need for Dynamo Kursk to improve at both ends of the court if they are to overturn a fourteen-point deficit in the EuroCup Women Final.
The Russian forward has been the driving force behind a great campaign for Kursk which had seen them not losing a single game in the competition until last week, when they were left shell-shocked after being on the receiving end of a terrific performance by Kayseri Kaskispor who won 69-55 in the first leg in Turkey.
The margin may seem to have given Dynamo Kursk a real uphill struggle in their attempts to place their hands on the coveted EuroCup Women trophy, but they have won several games in Russia by some distance, including a healthy win over Kayseri during the initial phase of the season.
What Petrakova is banking on most is that her team can raise standards and make amends.
That will require though an uplift in their individual and collective performances during what will be the final game of another thrilling EuroCup Women season.
"It will be important to stick together as a team," Petrakova said.
"We must focus on defence and be more active on the boards. It will also help if we move faster on offence.
"Kayseri played a great game. They fought hard and made it difficult to execute our game plan.
"We missed a lot of easy shots and made too many turnovers," she admitted.
"I also think the huge crowd that came to support the home team helped them a lot mentally.
Despite the disappointment for the loss, Petrakova did take time to pay tribute to the record-breaking crowd of over 7,200 that turned up to support their local heroes and the kind of impact it had.
"Yes, it is very exciting to see so many people showing up and the fans were so involved in the game which was so helpful for the home team.
"I don't think many players in Europe are used to this kind of crowd."
She added: "It's also a great experience to be able to stay composed when you know so many people are watching."
Whatever happens in the second leg, there is no denying Petrakova has been one of the top performers this year in the competition and indeed the player herself agrees it has even been the best of her career, which had previously seen her struggle for court time and opportunities.
"Yes, I believe this season has been treating me well since I have been able to play a key role on my team and so far we have been successful in EuroCup Women as well as in the Russian League," said Petrakova.
"However, I believe that I always try to play my best each year, but this year in particular, my team-mates have made it possible for me to excel.
"I think the secret is the great squad we have at Kursk. We play well together and we have been treated very well by our coaches and the management," she explained.
Clearly relishing her ability to have such a positive impact after being given scope to spread her wings during the last couple of years, Petrakova is suddenly thought to be in the frame for potential inclusion in the Russian Olympic squad.
Certainly she has the kind of attributes, including a nice inside-outside scoring ability, you would think head coach Boris Sokolovsky would certainly be tempted by.
But for the next few weeks at least and until the season is done and dusted, Petrakova is putting her Olympic bid on hold and trying not to think ahead to possibly parachuting her way onto the roster of the EuroBasket Women champions.
"It's been a dream for me to make the National Team for a few years now, and it's always in the back of my mind," she admits.
"However it's going to be my main focus when the summer starts, since right now, my head is only with Dynamo Kursk and trying to win the EuroCup Women!"