Monday, March 16, 2009

Russian Regular Season Wraps

The last week concluded regular-season play in the Russian Superleague, and Spartak played a pair of crucial games to wrap things up. On Thursday, Spartak played host to red-hot UMMC Ekaterinburg. Sue Bird's three-pointer tied the game with 1:45 left to play, but Spartak would not score again, committing two key turnovers as Ekaterinburg pulled out the 76-70 win. Lauren Jackson led Spartak with 18 points, Sue Bird adding eight points, five rebounds and five assists.

Earlier today, Spartak faced CSKA Moscow. They took an eight-point lead to the final period, but saw CSKA rally to tie the game at 80-all with an 11-0 run. This time, it was Spartak that came up with the big plays down the stretch. Bird forced Edwige Lawson-Wade into a turnover with 42 seconds left and was fouled in the process, knocking down both free throws to give Spartak the lead. After Jackson blocked Ann Wauters' shot and Diana Taurasi split two free throws, Ilona Korstin turned the ball over. Bird made two more free throws to secure the 85-80 win, giving her a game-high 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting for the game. Bird also handed out seven assists. Jackson also scored 13.

In its finale, Dynamo Moscow cruised past Slavianka 84-60. Janell Burse scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds in 20 minutes before calling it a day. The overmatched Slavianka finished the regular season 0-18.

Spartak and Ekaterinburg both completed the regular season at 16-2, but Ekaterinburg's head-to-head win gives them the top seed in the Superleague Playoffs. Spartak will host seventh-seeded Kursk Dynamo in a best-of-three series beginning next Monday. Dynamo (11-7) is the fifth seed and will go on the road for an intriguing matchup with Nadezhda, which also finished 11-7 behind Betty Lennox and Shameka Christon.

In advance of St. Patrick's Day tomorrow, the Irish Superleague kicked off its two-game aggregate semifinal series Saturday. Kristen O'Neill's UL Aughnish squad hosted Team Montenotte Hotel Cork Saturday on an eventful day. Despite leading the Aughnish to the postseason, coach Sasa Punosevac was relieved of his duties early in the day.

Playing under new coach Des O'Sullivan, UL took a 29-24 lead to the locker room. The second half was all Montenotte, with the visitors outscoring the Aughnish 37-19 to win 61-48. O'Neill led her team with 19 points, but Montenotte was able to limit her to 6-of-19 shooting. O'Neill added nine rebounds.

The teams will play the return leg at Montenotte next Saturday, with UL needing to win by 14 points to advance to the finals.

Make it 22-0 for Athinaikos, which defeated Ano Liosia 79-63 over the weekend. Katie Gearlds did it all for Athinaikos, starting with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. She also contributed six assists, five rebounds and four steals in her 33-minute outing.

In France, Tanisha Wright and Tarbes continue to roll along, beating Challes Les Eaux 64-58 yesterday to move to 20-1 on the season. Tarbes rallied after trailing 22-6 after one quarter, and Wright came up with a key bucket in the final minute to seal the win. She had 21 points, six assists and five rebounds.

TED Kayersi Koleji fell 78-54 yesterday to Galatasaray. Ashley Robinson had a solid effort in the loss, scoring 12 points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking three shots. She shot 5-of-9 from the field.

Ibiza-PDV and Shannon Johnson gave Spanish leaders Ros Casares a good run before coming up short in a 68-60 loss. Johnson had nine points, five assists and four rebounds, while teammate Sancho Lyttle scored 25 points.

Suzy Batkovic, with 10 points, was one of five Cras Basket Taranto players to score double-figures in an easy 76-53 victory over Phonica Pozzuoli. Batkovic added six rebounds and three assists in 25 mintues of action as Taranto stayed atop LegA Basket Femminile at 18-4.

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