Thursday, February 5, 2009

Burse, Gearlds Advance in EuroCup

Wednesday and Thursday were the return leg of the EuroCup's eighth-final matchups, those series decided by aggregate.

We start in Tel Aviv, where Katie Gearlds and Athinaikos was the lone team with Storm ties heading out on the road. Athinaikos carried a 15-point advantage from the first game of the series and only extended it in a 91-72 demolition of Elitzur Ramla. Gearlds led the way in the rout by shooting the lights out. She made five three-pointers in seven attempts and was 8-of-11 from the field overall, scoring a game-high 23 points in 26 minutes. Gearlds added three steals. As a team, Athinaikos shot 55.9 percent from the field. The 34-point combined margin was tied for the second-largest amongst the eight series.

The outcome was much more tense in Moscow, where Dynamo clung to a one-point advantage heading home. Dynamo trailed by eight after one quarter before putting it on Ravenna Esperides in a 26-13 second quarter. In the second half, Dynamo turned up the defense, allowing just 18 points (while scoring 18 as well) to hold on for the 60-52 win and a 135-126 aggregate outcome. Janell Burse was excellent for Dynamo, scoring 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting (including a rare three-pointer) and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line, pulling down 12 rebounds and blocking four shots. Marina Kuzina added 19 and that was all the scoring Dynamo needed in holding Ravenna Esperides to 30.0 percent shooting.

The news was not as positive in France, where Tarbes Bigorre Elite returned home needing to overcome a nine-point deficit from playing at Cras Basket Taranto. Tarbes led 22-10 after one quarter, but from then on it was all Taranto, which came up with a 73-69 win to eliminate Tarbes by 13 combined points. Tanisha Wright put up 17 points and five assists in the losing effort, but Tarbes struggled to stop Suzy Batkovic (20 points, seven rebounds) and was hurt at the free-throw line. Taranto made 20-of-21 free-throw attempts, while Tarbes was 11-of-18 from the charity stripe.

Athinaikos and Dynamo advance to the quarterfinals. Athinaikos will play Kursk Dynamo, while Moscow takes on Serbian side ZKK Hemofarm Vrsac. The EuroCup takes next week off before the next round of aggregate play starts on Thursday, Feb. 19 with both Athinaikos and Dynmo heading out on the road.

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