Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spartak Headed Back to Final Four

Spartak Moscow Region will look to win its third consecutive Euroleague championship in the Euroleague Final Four after defeating Ros Casares Valencia 79-70 in Wednesday's deciding Game 3. Ros Casares tested Spartak severely, forcing the series to the distance and trailing by just four with 1:42 to play. Spartak was able to make its free throws down the stretch and hold on for the win in a game that was taut back and forth throughout the second half.

"We had a difficult group and playoff games," said Ros Casares coach Isma Canto. "Today we started well, but Dee (Taurasi) and Sue (Bird) started playing their game and our defense could not deal with them."

Taurasi (22 points on 7-of-13 shooting) and Sylvia Folwes (23 points, 9-of-14 from the field) did the bulk of the scoring for Spartak. Bird provided contributions in every area, scoring 15 points (knocking down a pair of three-pointers as Spartak finally found the range from downtown), handing out a game-high assists, grabbing six rebounds and adding three steals for good measure.

Again, Lauren Jackson and DeLisha Milton-Jones neutralized each other. Jackson needed 14 shot attempts to score 12 points, and Milton-Jones shot 3-of-11 from the field, supplementing her 18-point line with 11 free throws. Spartak keyed defensively on Amaya Valdemoro and was able to hold the Spanish star in check, as Valdemoro was limited to 14 points and missed five of her six attempts from beyond the arc.

The Euroleague Final Four will be contested April 3 and April 5, with one of the finalists hosting. Spartak will square off in one semifinal against fellow Russian side UMMC Ekaterinburg, with Perfumerias Avenida (Spain) and MKB Euroleasing Sopron (Hungary) playing for the other spot in the championship game.

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