Monday, March 9, 2009

Europe Takes Euroleague All-Star Game

Sue Bird's prognostication proved accurate. Last week, Bird told she wasn't upset to miss the Euroleague All-Star Game because of a rule limiting each club to two representatives, but that fans were missing out on the chance to see Sylvia Fowles dunk.

Lo and behold, Fowles ended up playing in the game in place of Spartak's scheduled players (Lauren Jackson and Diana Taurasi) and threw down in the third quarter. Fowles' dunk was the highlight for a "Rest of the World" squad that barely shot 40 percent from the field and was outscored 33-15 in the fourth quarter of what had been a close game. Behind 24 points from game MVP Becky Hammon--who made six three-pointers in seven tries--the Europe squad ran away with a 101-78 victory.

According to the discussion at RebKell, Jackson and Taurasi were unable to participate after a flu bug hit Europe last week.

Besides the Euroleague All-Star Game, last week was all about national cup tournaments, most notably the Cup of Russia. Spartak crushed Kursk Dynamo 101-66 in the quarterfinals with Bird playing just 11 minutes and Jackson sitting out entirely. In the semifinals, Spartak took down archrival CSKA Moscow, 72-61, dominating the fourth quarter with a 23-10 advantage in the period. Bird had 11 points and eight assists in the triumph, Jackson 16 points and eight boards.

Friday's championship game matched Spartak against a revitalized UMMC Ekaterinburg squad. Trailing by nine heading to the final period, Spartak railed within two and took possession with 36 seconds to play. Kelly Miller's go-ahead three attempt missed, and Ekaterinburg made its free throws to secure the 70-64 win. Ekaterinburg did a great job defending Jackson (a task I suspect fell largely to Sandrine Gruda), who went 2-of-14 from the field. Jackson had just 10 points and four rebounds. Bird scored nine points with four boards, and Fowles too was quiet. Spartak might have been blown out if not for the 26 points scored by Diana Taurasi. Gruda also scored 18 points to lead four Ekaterinburg players in double-figures.

Ebe Ibiza-PDV made a surprise run to the finals of the Copa de la Reina tournament. Behind 26 points from Sancho Lyttle, Ibiza took out Perfumerias Avenida 80-65 in the quarterfinal. Shannon Johnson came up big in a 76-63 semifinal win over Celta Indepo. She scored 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting to lead Ibiza. In the final, Ibiza squared off with two-time defending champ Ros Casares. A balanced scoring attack led Ros Casares to a 65-60 win over Ibiza. Johnson scored seven points in the game.

In the annual Coppa Italia Final Four, Suzy Batkovic and Cras Basket Taranto were edged 66-63 in the semifinals by Lavezzini Parma. Batkovic scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in the loss, while former Storm guard Francesca Zara led all scorers with 16 points for Parma. Club Atletico Faenza would go on to knock off Parma and take the Coppa Italia final.

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