Samara may be down, but the 2005 Euroleague champions are certainly not out. Their loss at the hands of Gambrinus Brno in the 2006 Final Four may have been bitter, but defeat can also bring positive impetus for change.
"I think we learned from this experience," said Samara's Ann Wauters after playing in her sixth Final Four (for the record, she has won three times).
"We have one point guard, so we need a back-up. (Maria) Stepanova and me can't play forty minutes every game so we need more of a rotation. Sometimes it's good to lose because you get the chance to think things over and I think we will be stronger next year."
|Wauters and co will be back in 2006|
For Samara, the defeat was just their third in the last two seasons in EuroLeague Women action. They recorded an unbeaten record on the way to the 2005 title and before today's final had lost just one game (to MiZo Pecs) in the 2005/2006 season.
Despite being the favourites, they were well beaten by Gambrinus Brno.
"Of course we are dissappointed, but we were down the whole time. They were great with rebounding and they were better at the end and deserved to win," said Spanish forward Amaya Valdemoro.
Brno got off to a blistering start against the Russians, jumping out to a 20-6 lead in a sparkling first quarter.
Samara fought their way back, getting to within two points in the third quarter, but the fightback took its toll.
"They started so well and we fought our way back into the game, but that took a lot of effort and at the end we were flat," said Wauters.
The home court advantage, as well as Brno´s deeper bench, were also factors.
"I think they were fresher than us, we were tired. A couple of players played a lot of minutes against Vilnius and we could feel it in our legs. We gave everything to be in the final. I think Brno had a little bit more of a rotation and their playing time was a bit more divided and they played at home so the public was pushing them," Wauters added.
Rebounding was a key factor in the game, as Brno grabbed a total of 42 boards to just 24 for Samara. And when Nykesha Sales stepped up in the fourth quarter to score 16 points, Samara simply had no answer.
Samara will undboutedly be back in contention for a EuroLeague Women title in 2007, but for now, Gambrinus Brno are more than worthy of the title, a fact conceded by Wauters and her team-mates.
"I think they deserved it, they were definitely better than us today," said Wauters.