|It will be something of a win-win situation for the Belgian national Ann Wauters when her French club takes on their rivals from across the border|
By Paul Nilsen
While she would of course prefer to indulge in the somewhat more euphoric sensation of actually lifting the silverware aloft with VillenuveD'Ascq, even in defeat she is likely to find a significant chunk of solace.
After all, Wauters is an icon of women's basketball in Belgium and if she does miss out on finishing triumphant in the two-legged Final, at least it will be to a Belgian club in the shape of Castors Braine.
"Castors Braine are doing great things for women's basketball in Belgium," declared Wauters, with the huge respect she has for her homeland opponents not merely palpable, but written up in neon lights.
"They will play in the Spiroudome in Charleroi, a gym that has a capacity of 6,500 people.
"They are a great team, with great players and they are well coached," adds the veteran star for further emphasis of her admiration.
However, despite all of her gushing praise, don't go getting the wrong idea.
While the frontcourt star is excited by the Belgian influence on the Final, she is ruthlessly intent on finishing top of the pile.
"It is my first big final that I can play in Belgium and this is what makes it even more special," said Wauters.
"So yes, I am proud of what Castors Braine are doing, but of course I really want to win EuroCup Women with ESBVA."
It's true that Castors Braine have captured most of the attention in the build-up to the season finale and that's perhaps to be expected, since they are the first-timers and have played so magnificently well throughout their debut campaign.
Located less than 90 minutes away by car across the border, the shadow cast by their noisy neighbours has arguably fallen over Villeneuve D'Ascq.
Yet take the effort to shine a torch on the Finalists from France and you will discover a similarly illuminating story - both on and off the court.
Even though much has been made of the supporters in Braine-l'Alleud, anyone who witnessed the Semi Final tie which Villeneuve played at home to Maccabi Bnot will have watched and heard the passion of the home fans cascading down from all corners of the gym.
|Wauters points to Kim Mestdagh as the player her team need to keep the biggest eye on|
It was an integral element of Wauters and Villeneuve overturning a significant deficit from the first leg on the road - and just like Castors Braine, it had the club exploring an alternative venue for the Final.
"I think we played a great game at home against Maccabi, since I don't think people expected us to win that game after we had lost by nine in Tel Aviv," said Wauters.
"The crowd and atmosphere inside our venue, ‘Le Palacium' was amazing.
"Our fans are a big part of our team and it has certainly been a while since a French team played in a EuroCup Women Final.
"There were some ideas to move the game to a bigger gym, but we (the coaching staff and the players) prefer to play in our own gym - so this will mean us really playing at ‘home' in the first game."
Wauters also knows many of the Belgian players well and despite the likes of Latvia national team forward Anete Steinberga impressing all season-long, she is adamant where the true source of danger lies.
"They have Kim Mestdagh, who is key to their game," claimed the 34-year-old.
"I also think the first game is really huge for us and we need to be ready."
What Villeneuve also need is for Wauters herself to continue her rich vein of form.
When she decided to effectively bring her stellar Euroleague Women career to an end last summer, it was inevitable that Wauters would make an impact in EuroCup Women with her class and as predicted, EuroLeague Women's loss has most certainly been to Villeneuve's gain.
Wauters has the most points and rebounds per game in the competition for her team, while also shooting an incredible 61.3% - helped by an outrageously brilliant 10-of-11 in the Quarter Final second leg against Adana Botas and then a pivotal seven of eight in the Semi Final first game in Israel.
It means if Castors Braine ultimately do have their fairytale ending denied, there will be something wholly ironic if it is largely down to the biggest name in Belgian women's basketball history who is the one to pull the rug from under their feet.