By Paul Nilsen
EuroLeague Women winner Lucas Mondelo has hailed Fenerbahce as one of the top four teams in the competition this season.
Speaking ahead of a mouth watering match-up in Salamanca, the Perfumerias Avenida play-caller is adamant there are few better than the visitors from Istanbul who just like their hosts, sit proudly unbeaten at the top of Group B.
"They are a balanced team with many versatile players to highlight including the likes of (Elina) Babkina, (Penny) Taylor, (Esmeral) Tuncluer on the outside, the all round (Angel) McCoughtry while inside they have (Ivana) Matovic and (Nevriye) Yilmaz who give them lots of size.
"This makes them a very big and physical team, who base their game in the domain of dominating rebounding and using their defensive strength.
"They have an outside game on offence and are a very difficult team to play but we will a try to keep our own style, our own pace of play.
He added, "The support of our fans at home will be fundamental for us."
By his own admission, Mondelo is in dreamland right now with 2011 having been both remarkable and memorable. However never one to want to take all the plaudits, the unassuming coach has been quick to pay tribute to his coaching and support team for the role they have played.
He said "Our season is a dream since it's hard to win the Spanish league and the Spanish Super Cup, to conquer Europe by winning the EuroLeague Women and then also the SuperCup Women. In my own case I also won a gold medal in the U20 European Championship Women in Serbia.
"It's like a movie script but behind it there is much work and passion, not just mine but that of my co-employees such as my assistant, Alberto Miranda also responsible for scouting and our trainer David Noreña.
"We are a real team working with a mentality of working together, a philosophy we pass on to our players. It is imperative to develop our style and pace of play, which has led us to winning 38 straight games at the moment."
"We are proud of what we have achieved and remain competitive despite the fact that we have signed eight players from last year. We were able to rebuild the team and remain competitive to continue playing modern basketball which is fast and attractive to the the public."
The mutual respect and admiration between the teams is palpable with Fenerbahce coach George Dikeoulakos also paying tribute to the defending champions.
"I watched almost all their games and I am impressed with the way they function as a team. They have inside them the spirit of being the defending EuroLeague Women champions and a lot of confidence combined with plenty of energy.
"But, we also believe a lot in ourselves and what we can do as a team so consequently I think that the battle of the two unbeaten teams in the group will be spectacular and a lot of fun!"
"Until now, we consider our performances in EuroLeague Women as being very successful.
"Not only because we have managed to win all of our games but mostly because we have played good attractive basketball while at the same time, still building the team considering that both Taylor and McCoughtry joined the team late.
"But, in Euroleague Women, every round has totally different challenges so we expect that the future will not be as easy as it was in the first rounds."
Season So Far: Collectively these two teams are a flawless 10-0 this season in EuroLeague Women and battling
|Erika is back for Salamanca and the powerful center will meet tough opposition in the likes of Ivana Matovic and Nevriye Yilmaz|
for supremacy in Group B. Perfumerias Avenida are in a similarly strong position in Liga Femenina where they share top spot with arch rivals Ros Casares and are yet to lose with a 6-0 record. Fenerbahce SK are 4-1 in the Turkish league and tied for second place.
The Hot Hands: DeWanna Bonner has been outstanding since her summer switch from Rivas Ecopolis and continues to lead the way for the hosts. Incredibly she leads the team in points, rebounds, steals and blocks and is actually the leading scorer in EuroLeague Women with 22 points per game. Meanwhile Erika De Souza joined the team late but during the two games she has played, she has claimed double-doubles. Penny Taylor has led the way for Fener with her usual all-round contribution which has been excellent since she has shot the ball well both inside and out while leading the team in steals and dishing up plenty of assists. Angel McCoughtry is not far behind in terms of numbers while playmaker Birsel Vardarli is now beginning to find some form.
The ‘X Factors': The ability of Fenerbahce to successfully guard Dewanna Bonner is likely to be the key in this game since she has been the driving force for Salamanca so far this season. Equally Perfumerias Avenida will know that Fener are a difficult team to lock down as they have contributors all over the floor. In truth, there is little between these teams in all facets of the game and so rather simplistically it may just boil down to who executes offensively and makes their shots.
Key Match Up: Whoever is given the task of guarding Dewanna Bonner could have the most important task for Fenerbahce and it is likely to prove the decisive match-up. It will be one of the first things to look for in this game. For sure the hosts have much more than one player but if the likes of Taylor or McCoughtry for example can lock her down then Perfumerias Avenida will be asked a big question by their opponent.