BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Candace Parker and Sandrine Gruda are paving the way to the Russian title for UMMC Ekaterinburg - the frontline duo have combined for 85 points in the first two games of the play-off finals|
UMMC Ekaterinburg have taken a 2-0 lead in the Russian women's league play-off finals over rivals Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje following Tuesday's 80-73 victory.
Algirdas Paulauskas' side, gunning for a fourth straight domestic title, won Game 1 in the battle of EuroLeague Women giants on Monday, 80-65.
Sparta&K, who have been beset by injuries this season, lost Sonja Petrovic to a broken finger in the team's final practice before the championship series and she missed a second consecutive game.
But even with the Serbia international, UMMC would be tough to beat.
In the opener, Candace Parker erupted for a game-high 30 points and former Sparta&K star Sue Bird weighed in with 15 points and five assists.
Yelena Leuchanka and Sandrine Gruda added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
On Tuesday, Parker poured in 24 points and Gruda 20 while Candice Dupree had 24 for Sparta&K, who were in the game until the end.
Sparta&K led with 8:42 remaining after Dupree scored two of her points but UMMC then hit the visitors with an 11-0 run they wouldn't recover from.
Gruda put UMMC back in front to stay with a basket to make it 66-65 for UMMC.
Parker then reeled off five consecutive points, including a three-ball, for a 71-65 UMMC advantage.
Gruda followed with another bucket before Deanna Nolan capped the spurt with another shot midway through the quarter.
A Dupree basket trimmed the UMMC advantage to 75-71 with 1:48 to play, but Russia international Olga Arteshina calmed her team's nerves with a three-pointer to push the lead back to 78-71 with 1:33 left and the hosts held on.
UMMC will go for a sweep when the teams meet again on Friday 27 April.