Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various websites and publications across Europe.
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A RECORD-BREAKING RUN
It just gets even more sensational for Lucas Mondelo and Perfumerias Avenida. The team from Salamanca continues to write another line in this glorious 2011 chapter as their superb road win in Orenburg made it a quite stunning 36 consecutive wins in all competitions.
This is a record for a Spanish club and is a quite phenomenal achievement, which in my opinion even equals the accomplishment of winning the EuroLeague Women. While at first glance this comparison might seem ridiculous, just bear with me.
For a team which competes in the dog-eat-dog world of an intense EuroLeague Women and a very competitive Liga Femenina to go for such a long time without slipping up, is testament to an amazing heart.
|Perfumerias Avenida Head Coach Lucas Mondelo (pictured) and his assistant, Alberto Miranda, must be doing something right as the reigning champions extend their impressive winning streak |
It's also down to a huge amount of hard work, determination, preparation, scouting, game execution and - above anything else - great coaching and the magic dust for any team which is consistency (in the extreme).
I find it genuinely inspiring that this run has also taken place across two different seasons with many different players, has incorporated silverware and has also involved coach Mondelo operating with a reduced budget this year and yet still with flawless results.
This week's narrow win against Nadezhda really was typical of a true spirit showed by any champion team.
They did their homework in locking down the dangerous Elena Danilochkina who only managed to take a handful of shots the whole game and didn't score. While down the other end of the floor, MVP of the week Erika De Souza posted her second double-double in as many weeks since her belated return to the tournament.
I tip my hat in admiration and I am sure all of the coaches and players in EuroLeague Women will do the same. For they alone understand the demands, both physically and mentally, of playing two games each week and the exhausting travelling schedules which fans often forget about.
Congratulations to Perfumerias Avenida and especially Lucas Mondelo along with all of the hard-working staff behind the scenes supporting the players and the club as it moves from strength to strength.
RELIEF IN KAUNAS
Even if you take into account VICI Aistes Kaunas having what was, in my opinion, the toughest ever start to any EuroLeague Women season bar none, everyone in Kaunas was still clearly feeling down with an 0-4 record.
So, I think there was a collective sigh of relief when the team found their shooting range against Gyor with a really strong performance to rack up a first win of the campaign. It's certainly important for the competition that a basketball-obsessed country like Lithuania has a team that is competitive and this was hugely encouraging. Especially with two (albeit difficult) games to come against Lotos Gdynia and the return fixture in Gyor during the remaining nine weeks.
The win also condemned Tarbes Gespe Bigorre to the unenviable title of being the only team in the EuroLeague Women without a victory to their name this season.
As for Gyor, they will be disappointed and I guess I have to say sorry for putting a curse on Rita Rasheed. She has been so consistent this season that I idenitifed her as being the ‘hot-hand' for her team in the preview for this game. Having tempted fate, she went 1 of 10 on the night. My apologies ‘Rash' and I'm sure this curse will also serve as a note of caution for Perfumerias Avenida!
|Courtnay Pilypaitis and VICI Aistes breathed a collective sigh of relief on Wednesday while, inadvertedly, they mounted up the pressure on Tarbes |
TURKISH TWEAKS NEEDED
It didn't go unnoticed last week that building on the success of Fenerbahce SK and Galatasaray Medical Park, the Turkish teams in EuroCup Women took their country's record in European women's basketball this season to 11-0. After subsequent wins for the Istanbul heavyweights, that now makes it 13-0 which is a great collective achievement.
However, beneath the perfect records, there is still a little bit of tweaking to be done by the respective coaches. Galatasaray really did labour to their win against a very impressive and hard working Lotos Gdynia which will have given Ceyhan Yildizoglu some food for thought. I guess this is why you invest in such stellar names - to bail you out of trouble when the team is not playing well - but nevertheless it should still be a big wake-up call even if the visitors failed to pull off a major upset.
As for Fenerbahce, they have already had a bit of a wake-up call domestically with defeat a couple of weeks ago in the Turkish league. It seems the big task for Coach George Dikeoulakos is keeping some very demanding fans on side and dealing with the knee-jerk reaction to the inevitable blips that will come the way of any club during a demanding season.
Meanwhile he also has a job in trying to protect a young player like Elina Babkina who is yet to shine but deserves some time to settle and find her role in the team. Some people are already questioning whether she can cut it, but I am confident she can do it at the highest level - if given the support of the fans who need to show her both love and patience if they want her to be successful for their team.
Perhaps I am being a little naïve asking for such a thing but I like to think our brightest young players in Europe don't deserve to be judged just two months after the start of the biggest season of their career.
PAULBALL WEEK 5 PICKS
Performance Of The Week: While tempting to hand it to VICI Aistes for their first win or even to Lotos Gdynia for the way they made Galatasaray Medical Park sweat, it simply must go to Perfumerias Avenida. Their hard fought 69-64 win in Nadezhda was impressive enough as a stand-alone result but in the context of their record breaking run, it was genuinely fantastic.
The Crucial Cameo: A double award this week for Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomeration duo Edwige Lawson and Kristen Mann. With Stephany Skrba headlining their excellent 96-82 road win in Croatia at Gospic Osiguranje, both Lawson and Mann gave terrific support in a great team performance. The former had 17 points including a perfect three of three from outside to go with 5 assists and 3 steals while Mann had 21 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Rising Star Watch: In truth, it was a relatively quiet week for the young guns of the competition. However, there were a couple of performances of note in Sopron where 1994-born Fanni Szabo scored twice from two attempts in an encouraging 10 minutes of action during the win against CCC Polkowice. Eighteen year old team-mate Zsofia Licskai continued her run of playing in every game so far this season with a handful of minutes off the bench. Meanwhile it is still worth remembering that Tijana Krivacevic is still only 21 years old, despite being pretty much the leader of the team nowadays as she posted another impressive line.
Stats Don' Lie: Rivas Ecopolis smashed the previous highest points total in a game as they poured in a mammoth 112 points in the crushing home success against Frisco Brno with Elisa Aguilar dishing up 11 assists to join Spanish national team-mate Laia Palau at the top of that particular game-high chart. Even in defeat, there were some notable numbers this week with both Aneika Henry of Lotos Gdynia and Kia Vaughn of Cras Basket Taranto claiming a monstrous 17 rebounds which also tied them at the top of that game high category.