|Rebekka Hammon led Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje past Targoviste in the play-offs|
Road to Final Eight:
At the back end of December, Pokey Chatman and her team appeared slightly vulnerable with two losses. However, the Russian side have struck back with a vengeance in 2013 and generally swept aside everyone in their path to become the number one ranked team in the play-offs. They safely despatched Municipal Tagoviste and are consequently now one of the most feared teams stepping out in Ekaterinburg.
Keep an Eye On:
It has been far from a vintage season for Rebekka Hammon, but the veteran guard showed she is a big-game player by saving her two most significant performances for play-off-time. She averaged 20.5 points and 6.5 assists across the two games with Municipal Targoviste. Also watch out for Candice Dupree who is averaging a team-high 14.4 points, mainly due to her outstanding efficiency. Her field goal percentage of 60.4% is the second best in the competition.
Coach Chatman is a fantastic play-caller with a great reputation and anything is possible under her watchful eye. Sparta&K possess a nice inside-outside balance as well as a balanced mix of veteran and young players which speaks volumes for their impressive recruitment strategy. They will be quietly confident and will have the extra motivation of being able to employ a siege mentality within the white-hot atmosphere of their arch rivals. They might just thrive in the adversity of this, since they know what it takes to reach the Final on the same floor in Ekaterinburg, having done so two years ago.
The depth and team ethic of Sparta&K is illustrated by the impressive spread of minutes so far this season and the fact that ten players average over 14 minutes per game. They are also the most prolific team in EuroLeague Women with 80.9 points per game, the only to have broken through the 80-point barrier. They are the best three-point shooting team at the Final Eight having shot 36.1% this season.
Sparta&K are one of the most celebrated teams in European women's basketball, with 2012 marking the first time since 2007 that they did not feature in the EuroLeague Women Final. In 2007, the club went on an unprecedented four-title winning streak, before having to settle for second place during 2011. The Russian side also have their name engraved on EuroCup Women 2006 and both the 2010 and 2011 SuperCup Women trophies.