Thursday, January 29, 2009

EuroCup Playoffs Resume

More than a month after the EuroCup 16th-finals, postseason action picked back up today with the start of home-and-home aggregate series in the eighth-finals. To recap, three Storm players are scattered amongst the 16 teams still in action - Janell Burse with top-seeded Dynamo Moscow, Tanisha Wright on Tarbes Bigorre Elite and Katie Gearlds for Athinaikos.

Dynamo played the day's tightest game, ultimately triumphing on the road against Greek side Ravenna Esperides by a 75-74 final. Two Tatiana Popova free throws with 15 seconds left - her only points of the day - gave Dynamo the lead for good. Of course, because these series are decided by total points, winning or losing a single game is not of crucial importance. Either way, Dynamo is in solid shape heading back home.

Dynamo relied on its trio of foreigners - Anete Jekabsone-Zogota (23 points), Belinda Snell (19) and Burse (14 points and seven rebounds). The three players combined for 56 of Dynamo's 75 points.

Tarbes found the road a less friendly environment, falling 75-66 at Cras Basket Taranto. Taranto outscored Tarbes 25-13 in the second quarter, and the visitors never got in the game - though at least Tarbes kept things close enough to have a reasonable shot of evening the score back home. Wright was a big part of that. Held to four first-half points, Wright finished with 22 on 9-of-16 shooting. She added four assists and three rebounds.

Tarbes scored at a strong clip, yet could not get enough stops. Megan Mahoney scored 20 for Taranto, which also got 14 points from former Storm center Suzy Batkovic. Old Storm favorite Michelle Greco ran the point, handing out eight assists while scoring 11 points and grabbing five boards in an excellent well-rounded performance.

The lone Storm team in EuroCup that is the lower-seeded team this round is Athinaikos, which crushed Elitzur Ramla 88-73. Gearlds paced the Athinaikos attack with 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting, while LaToya Davis contributed a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds. Athinaikos shot 61.3 percent on two-point attempts and was 26-of-32 at the free-throw line in the win. Ramla apparently had to release all of its American players - including Adia Barnes - due to financial considerations, so Athinaikos is in good shape to maintain its advantage going on the road and advance to the quarterfinals.

The deciding games of the aggregate series will be played a week from today.

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