|Evanthia Maltsi has made up one half of a succesful Greek pairing for Kayseri, alongside Zoi Dimitrakou|
Three teams take huge leads into the return legs of the EuroCup Women quarter-finals, but nobody can take anything for granted in a competition synonymous for upsets and dramatic comebacks.
The sense of déjà vu was indeed overpowering last week in Turkey as Kayseri Kaski spor repeated the scale of their first-leg success in last seasons' Final against Dynamo Kursk, by securing a 101-86 victory. This was actually a one-point improvement on the damage they managed to inflict in the Final, so they will be hoping that this time they can actually go and finish the job on the road.
Kayseri arguably produced their best basketball of the season, led by a duel Greek spearhead of Evanthia Maltsi and Zoi Dimitrakou who combined for 44 points, whilst Lara Sanders weighed in with 22 points. The team shot the lights out and managed to chalk-up 60.3% from the floor to highlight their dominance.
One player who did a great job but didn't grab the headlines was Spanish guard Nuria Martinez. She was outstanding at both ends of the court. She drew nine fouls and was a constant threat with 14 points and six assists, but also did the defensive dirty work too.
As for Kursk, they have a real challenge ahead. The margin is not insurmountable as they proved in the Eighth Finals last year, but this looks like a much improved Kayseri team. Aside from Epiphanny Prince, nobody else is in red-hot form and they must do a much better job on the glass to get themselves back into this tie and continue on their quest to defend their title.
A home-floor victory for Dynamo Moscow in game one was not exactly a surprise, although the margin of success against the French League leaders certainly was, as the Russian club posted a convincing 73-51 win to put one foot into the last four.
BLMA are most definitely now odds on to crash out of the competition, one they were favoured by many to win at the start of the season. They will be ruing a shocking second quarter when Dynamo outscored them 22-8 and basically took control of the tie with real authority.
It's essential that BLMA do a better job defensively on both Crystal Langhorne and Tatiana Vidmer who were dominant inside. Indeed Svetlana Abrosimova stated after the game that Dynamo are stronger in the paint and it's tough to make an argument against this, so expect more of the same approach in this game from the visitors.
Equally, the 17 turnovers BLMA gave up also proved to be costly in what was a terrible day at the office.
It looks to be a mountain far too high to climb for the French club, but such leads have been overturned in the past and the key will be trying to erase the deficit in small chunks and appreciating they can't get it all back at once.
|Chevakata coach Dmitry Donskov believes his troops could have played better on the first leg, despite winning by 28 points|
Whilst not a foregone conclusion, it's as close as you can get to it and the Russian club should make it to the last four of the competition with a significant advantage behind them.
Additionally, Hainaut Basket are also weighed down considerably by domestic troubles since they are languishing joint bottom of the French League and flirting with relegation. In the wake of their first-leg defeat, head coach Corinne Benintendi spoke of being short-handed, but even with a full roster this time around, it's hard to see how they could, for example, hold Chevakata to forty to fifty points and somehow score seventy or eighty themselves to progress.
Worryingly for Hainaut Basket, the first game didn't particularly impress Chevakata play-caller Dimitry Donskov who said, "In many moments we could have played much better."
This was the one quarter-final match-up which proved to be relatively tight as Nantes escaped from Slovakia with a precious 56-51 success and so will consequently be narrow favourites to advance.
The players will be eager to progress to reward the excellent support they received in the first game from the 2000-strong crowd, by making sure fans get to put another EuroCup Women game date into their diaries.
One positive for Stefan Svitek was that Ruzomberok have looked after the ball much better after being plagued by turnovers for the majority of the season. Unfortunately their three-point shooting deserted them in game one as they continued to jack up triple attempts, resulting in a costly 3-of-17 from downtown. This will need to be an area of improvement for the second leg.
As for Nantes, they just need to focus and remind themselves that the only time they have lost at home so far was in their last game against Olimpia Grodno in the sixteenth finals. Meanwhile if Caroline Aubert can return to form and post the kind of game-winning performance she is capable of, it would be a big bonus.
This could certainly prove to be the most fascinating and nerve-wracking match-up of this quarter-final round.