Thursday, December 4, 2008

Overdue Overseas Update

It's been a week and a half since our last look overseas, first delayed by the holiday and then a number of other stories that required our attention. In that span, there have been two rounds of Euroleague play and one of EuroCup (strangely, Europe doesn't break for our Thanksgiving) and a weekend of play in the national leagues.

During that span, Spartak has strengthened its position at the top of Group D in Euroleague. With an 85-41 win over TEO Vilnius and a 100-76 victory Wednesday at Fenerbahce, Spartak has improved to 7-1 and a two-game lead in Group D over Vilnius, Fenerbahce and Maxima Broker Kosice. With two games left in group play, that means Spartak can do no worse than tie for first place.

The win over Vilnius avenged Spartak's only loss of the season, and Spartak clearly took out its disappointment in that loss, taking a 52-18 lead by halftime. Vilnius was held to 20.6 shooting from the field and 2-of-21 from beyond the arc. Lauren Jackson scored 13 points in 15 minutes and Sue Bird had six and five assists. It was all Jackson against Fenerbahce. She scored 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting - including five three-pointers - and eight rebounds. Bird set her teammate up with 11 assists, adding 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting herself.

Yesterday also saw ZVVZ USK Praha come up with a needed 102-78 home win over Jolly JBS Sibenik. Swin Cash scored 10 points and eight rebounds, but it was Evanthia Maltsi who stole the show. Maltsi finished an assist shy of a triple-double, posting 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. The win lifted USK Praha a game ahead of Sibenik in the standings and into a three-way tie for third place in Group C. The top four teams from each group advance to the elimination round. The victory also helped remove the bad taste of an 88-69 loss to Ros Casares the previous week despite 18 points and six boards from Cash.

In between, USK Praha remained undefeated in Czech play by beating Valosun Brno 98-71 in a game where Cash sat out.

Group play is complete in the EuroCup, where all four teams with Storm players advanced to the Sixteenth-Finals round (made up of 32 teams).

Dynamo Moscow (with Janell Burse) and Tanisha Wright's Tarbes Bigorre Elite team both finished atop their group and undefeated at 6-0. Dynamo will face the Solna Vikings in the EuroCup's soccer-style home-and-home aggregate playoff series. Solna features Sacramento guard A'Quonesia Franklin. Tarbes takes on Baschet ICIM.

Athinaikos suffered its first loss of the year in the group finale at CB Feve San Jose by a 90-67 final, with Katie Gearlds scoring 12 points in the loss. San Jose won the tiebreaker and thus the group. Athinaikos will go up against SK Cesis, which has one-time Storm player Wilnett Crockett. (Crockett never got in a game and spent just a day on the roster, but she still goes down as a former Storm player officially.)

Lastly, K.V. Imperial AEL qualified for the Sixteenth-Finals as one of the top third-place teams. That means a difficult first-round matchup for Shyra Ely and company - Rivasecopolis and Cathy Joens, which was 4-2 in Group C.

Elsewhere, UL Aughnish suffered its second loss in Irish Superleague play by a 60-56 final to Tolka Rivers BC. Tolka Rivers was able to hold Kristen O'Neill to 18 points on 8-of-22 shooting, and the rest of the squad was unable to pick up the slack. O'Neill added seven rebounds and four steals.

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