Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various websites and publications across Europe.
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As a quartet of heavyweight EuroLeague Women teams battled it out for two respective domestic cup titles over the weekend, the co-favourites for the Final Eight both came up short.
But, most intriguingly of all, there seemed to be a slight irony as EuroLeague Women champions Perfumerias Avenida (who of course unlike Ros Casares, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, won't be lining up in Istanbul) threw up two of the biggest talking points.
Firstly, their Copa De La Reina (Spanish Cup) success placed a question mark back at the gold-plated door of arch rivals Ros Casares and secondly, they once again reminded us that being labelled as favourites for any competition means very little as they claimed yet another piece of silverware as an underdog.
|Ros Casares point guard Silvia Dominguez, a member of the EuroLeague Women-winning Avenida side last year, goes up against Laura Antoja, who replaced her on the team, in the Spanish Cup Final on Sunday|
Rafaella Masciadri of Beretta-Famila Schio recently spoke of how her club were intending to use the accomplishments of Avenida last season as inspiration for success and indeed that is exactly what happened in Round 2, as Salamanca were fatally bitten by an underdog themselves to receive a bitter taste of their own medicine.
Now, several teams heading to the Final Eight will continue to draw inspiration from Perfumerias Avenida, not only in respect of last year's stunning EuroLeague Women success but also after this famous Copa triumph which was achieved against a stacked Ros Casares team bursting with talent and therefore overwhelming favourites.
In the light of this significant and high profile failure, it's not surprising serious questions are being asked about Ros for the first time since the early part of the season when they decided to make a coaching change.
Questions were being asked by their own fans via social media sites with many supporters giving a no-holds barred assessment of their team's performance. This Copa post-mortem will of course continue for a few days longer but I suspect once the dust has settled, there may be a silver lining to the rather black cloud.
For while the manner and margin of the loss to Avenida was a little galling, I am fascinated to see if rather than the pressure building on Ros and doubts creeping in, this result could actually have a positive effect by tempering the excitement and expectation ahead of Istanbul.
Perhaps there could also be a slight irony in that having suffered the crushing disappointment of being dumped out of EuroLeague Women gave Perfumerias Avenida an incredible amount of additional motivation, desire and focus.
Perhaps Ros also need a big question mark over their heads rather than coasting into Turkey on a cloud with everyone patting them on the back and saying they are the favourites.
The Spanish giants are of course a class team with a high-quality roster and I think they will still be the team to beat - especially after this setback.
As for Perfumerias Avenida? Well, they were simply outstanding. It was a stunning win as they unleashed their EuroLeague Women frustrations to great effect on Ros, driven primarily by Erika De Souza (who is always fired-up against her former club), Marta Fernandez and young Marta Xargay who played as well as I have ever seen and was a genuine driving force.
I am absolutely sure that, deep down, it won't have fully laid the Schio ghost to rest nor healed some pretty deep wounds. Everyone associated with Salamanca will probably still find it hard to stomach not being in Istanbul, only now the players and coaching staff can stare at yet another winner's medal to cushion the pain a little.
GALATASARAY PREVAIL IN TURKISH CLASH OF GIANTS
|Credit where credit's due: The good work of coach Ceyhyn Yildizoglu at Galatasaray is often unfairly overlooked, due to the big stars on the roster |
Immediately after the final buzzer had sounded in Spain, it was the turn of those truly epic rivals, Galatasaray Medical Park and Fenerbahce, to lock horns in the Turkish Cup Final and we were treated to a typically fractious, pulsating and passionate encounter.
Without pouring over the game in fine detail, I thought it was very interesting for both teams and also for other clubs competing at the Final Eight who will have watched this contest with great interest.
First off, credit was due to both teams for playing their part in a feisty but never less than entertaining match-up.
For Fenerbahce, the wheels came off just at the wrong time as they let frustration get the better of them as they lost their discipline a little and failed to execute or play smart down the stretch.
From technical fouls to forcing tough shots, it felt as though they lost their composure and focus. They allowed themselves to become embroiled in an ugly and scrappy half-court finish rather than the expansive and transitional game they love so much and had enjoyed in the first quarter.
This was because they stopped doing those simple things well, such as getting defensive rebounds so they could get out in the open floor.
It suited their opponent and in some respects, Fenerbahce were their own worst enemy.
They could and should have won the game and this is something I sense they will take a lot from, heading into the Final Eight.
After such a super season in the EuroLeague Women, the reaction by Fenerbahce to this loss will be interesting, to say the least. They have such a super team, one which is deep and I am quite sure will bounce back. For me, this result doesn't diminish the status of Fenerbahce as one of the co-favourites.
As for Galatasaray Medical Park, I have to offer my wholesome congratulations to head coach Ceyhun Yildizoglu in particular.
I guess he will get little sympathy from many others due to the quality he has at his disposal but I think taking into account the extreme pressure he is under and the injuries which denied him use of players such as Alba Torrens, this was an immeasurable boost and success ahead of the Final Eight.
I did and indeed still do harbour some doubts about the all-round depth of Galatasaray as I have consistently pointed out in recent months, but I thought they showed great heart to dig this win out.
In fact, during the early stages, they risked being blown away as Fenerbahce ran them off the court. Still down by quite a few points at the start of the final quarter, they played with aggression and played smart to get themselves back in a position to win the game.
There is absolutely no question Fenerbahce gave them a helping hand but still, Galatasaray took their chance when it came their way and it should give them a bucket load of confidence.
For while some people have moaned they have been allowed to rest by not participating in Round 2, I am not certain this is such a great thing.
Big teams and big players like to play in big games regularly and it's a good job they got to sample this Cup Final success otherwise it is arguable they may have headed into the Final Eight a little undercooked.
In summary, it was a fabulous weekend for the neutral with so much to think about and the perfect appetizer to the main course which is now just a couple of weeks away.
Believe me, there isn't any kind of scientific instrument invented which could accurately measure my excitement.
Bring it on.