Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spartak Tested in Quarterfinal Opener

The best-of-three Euroleague Quarterfinal series tipped off today, and Spartak got a stiff test in hosting Ros Casares Valencia for Game 1. Ros Casares got within two points at 59-57 inside the final two minutes, but Sylvia Fowles' three-point play gave Spartak some breathing room and Lauren Jackson's late three-pointer provided the final 65-57 margin as Spartak moved within a game of the Euroleague Final Four.

There were two reasons the game was close. The first was a bizarre Spartak slump from long distance. As a team, Spartak shot 2-of-21 on threes, including 1-of-6 from Jackson and 0-for-4 from Sue Bird. Had they made a couple more of those attempts, as they typically do, the margin would have been much larger.

Second, Ros Casares got a terrific performance from Amaya Valdemoro. The Spanish star scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had three steals. Elisa Aguilar was the only other Ros Casares player to reach double-figures in the defensive affair.

Jackson led Spartak with 17 points, adding seven rebounds. Bird contributed in a variety of ways, finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists in playing 39 of the 40 minutes. Fowles and Diana Taurasi (1-of-9 from three) chipped in 12 points apiece.

The setting now switches to Valencia, Spain for Friday's Game 2, with Ros Casares hoping to extend the series the distance. Elsewhere, home teams Halcon Avenida and UMMC Ekaterinburg held serve in Game 1, while MKB Euroleasing Sopron went on the road to defeat Bourges Basket 68-65 and wrest control of the series.

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