It was a grind, but Sparta&K Moscow Region beat Russian rivals Nadezhda on Wednesday to clinch a place in the EuroLeague Women Final Eight.
|Seimone Augustus was in top form again for Sparta&K to help them reach the Final Eight|
After trailing nearly four minutes into the second half, Sparta&K shifted into a higher gear and pulled away for an 82-67 victory.
Seimone Augustus underlined her status as one of the sport's premier players with 23 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals for Sparta&K, a club going after a fifth title in the last six years.
Early in the fourth quarter, Sparta&K were only on top 64-62 after a Katie Douglas jumper for Nadezhda, but Augustus went to the other end and drilled a jump shot.
A Becky Hammon steal followed shortly after, leading to a Candice Dupree lay-up and a 68-62 advantage for Pokey Chatman's club.
Hammon then rebounded her own miss and put the ball up and in as Sparta&K pushed further ahead.
The lead ballooned to 12 after baskets by Dupree and Augustus.
Douglas connected from behind the arc to bring the deficit for Nadezhda back to nine, but Sparta&K had the wind in their sails and were not to be denied.
Evgenia Belyakova nailed a three-pointer and Augustus followed with a three-point play to make it 80-65 with just under four minutes remaining.
Sparta&K's fourth-quarter run sucked the life out of Nadezhda, who saw their hopes of travelling to Istanbul disappear with a 2-1 defeat in the Round 2 series.
Rebekkah Brunson, who like Dupree and Augustus are finalists for the USA Olympic squad, had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
EuroBasket Women MVP Elena Danilochkina of Russia made two of her three attempts from long range and finished with 10 points in defeat.
Hammon and Dupree were the only other Sparta&K players to hit double digits in points with 16 apiece.
Pokey Chatman, Sparta&K head coach:
"We did a great job, especially in the second half, in executing our pick and roll offense.What also helped us was winning the last quarter offensive rebound battle. Becky [Hammon] and Seimone [Augustus] had a solid game and what truly led us to the much coveted Final Eight was the team's overall performance. This is a good time to thank the Governor of Moscow Region, Boris Gromov; the Head of Leniskiy District, Sergey Koshman, our CEO Anna Arkhipova Von Kalmanovic and people behind the scene for doing a great job and making our job easier. Shabtai is somewhere up there celebrating and that makes me very happy."
Evgenia Belyakova, Sparta&K player:
"I am very happy. We achieved something many would have thought would be impossible and we did it in style. We listened to our coaching staff, we worked hard, trusted each other and this is what helped us go to Istanbul. I have to congratulate our opponents but I mainly have to congratulate us. We have to continue working hard in order to do well in the Final Eight and to continue the Sparta&K tradition."
Alexander Kovalev, Nadezhda head coach:
"We played good basketball for 33 minutes but during the last seven minutes we lost the battle of rebounds and we gave Spartak too many chances to shoot the ball. We had too many turnovers and we scored only seven points in the last quarter. It seems as our team could not withstand the psychological pressure. We played with dignity but these final seven minute kept us away from making the Final Eight."
Katie Douglas, Nadezhda player:
"It was a hard fought battle but the fact that we made too many turnovers and we lost many offensive rebounds especially in the last quarter hurt us. Sparta&K has a great team and for any opponent who is not concentrated throughout the game it is difficult to win [agaist them]. You do have to give credit to Sparta&K which played a balanced game and took advantage of our offensive rebound weakness."